CHAMPAIGN — Our long meteorological winter — if that's what you want to call it — is over.
The average Champaign-Urbana temperature in December, January and February was 34.1 degrees, about 6.5 degrees above normal. We received less than half the normal snowfall for the three months. And the coldest temperature all winter was 4 degrees, hardly the brutal cold that had been predicted months ago.
It tied for sixth place among the warmest winters in Champaign-Urbana weather history.
It also was a bad season for guys like Dave Dillman, owner of AOS Snow Removal in Champaign.
"It didn't do much at all for me. I'm looking for work. You got some?" Dillman said. "Last year was my best year, and this year was my worst. I've been doing this almost 15 years."
As bad as it was for Dillman, it was an even worse winter for the AccuWeather forecasting service, which had predicted a "brutal" winter in October.
"Hands down, AccuWeather.com's long-range experts agree that the Midwest and Great Lakes region will be dealt the worst of winter this year," the weather forecaster reported Oct. 11. "In terms of both snow and cold, this winter is expected to be the worst in Chicago. AccuWeather.com long-range meteorologist Josh Nagelberg even went so far as to say, 'People in Chicago are going to want to move after this winter.'"
The National Weather Service reported that the average winter temperature in Chicago was 32.8 degrees, 6.4 degrees above normal. Snowfall totalled 19.5 inches, about 9 inches below normal.
At Ameren Illinois, the utility that serves most of downstate Illinois, natural-gas use is below projections, although the utility doesn't yet know by how much, said spokesman Leigh Morris.
"We have delivered so far this winter less natural gas to residential and commercial customers than we had budgeted," he said. "However, industrial deliveries have been running higher than we budgeted. There could be a lot of reasons for that."
But the mild weather is the biggest reason for the drop in residential and commercial gas use, he said. More energy-efficient homes and customer awareness about energy use are the other major reasons, he said.
"Yes, the winter has been very warm, but we really weren't caught off-guard," Morris said. "Next winter could be like last winter and it'll be unusually cold and everything will go in the opposite direction."
For the record, this year's average winter temperature of 34.1 degrees in Champaign-Urbana tied the winter of 2001-2002 for sixth place, according to Jim Angel, state climatologist at the Illinois State Water Survey in Champaign.
The warmest winter was 1931-32 (37.6 degrees), followed by 1889-90 (37.2 degrees), 1997-98 (34.5 degrees), and 1952-53 and 1953-54 (both 34.2 degrees).
Snowfall during the three winter months totaled 10.9 inches, ranking it ninth for least amount of snow. The record is 6.7 inches in the winter of 1954-55, according to Angel.
The winter of 2011-12 could hardly have been more different from the winter before.
Winter temperatures a year ago were below normal and snowfall totalled 41.3 inches, including a record 20.4 inches in December 2010.
The warmest temperature this winter was 66 degrees on Wednesday — the last day of meteorological winter. But there were several other unusually mild days in the last three months, including 21 days with temperatures of 50 degrees or more. By contrast, there were no days with temperatures of zero degrees or below. Thirteen other Champaign-Urbana winters have featured no-zero or below days, said Angel, the most recent being the winter of 2001-2002.
Even with the relatively balmy temperatures, ridership was still up on Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District buses, according to MTD marketing director Jan Kijowski. The MTD carried just over 3 million passengers in December, January and February, up from 2.84 million a year earlier.