Weather. We can predict it fairly accurately, but we can’t control it. We often have a mix of seasons, some wild and some mild, thank goodness, so we can at least shake ourselves off and move on to the next one. But not this year. As I look back on 2011, I’m amazed at all of the weather records that were broken in New Jersey.By the time January 1 came, the 2010-2011 snow season was already in full swing, highlighted by a blizzard that hit the day after Christmas. Northern New Jersey ended the season with record snowfalls, to the tune of over 6 total feet. Now, I know that compared to more northern states this is just a drop in the bucket, but we have smaller buckets here in Jersey, and they were fuller than we would have liked. The record snows gave us a new appreciation for how well our neighbors to the north handle the winter workload. You may have heard the old adage “April showers bring May flowers”, but our showers just kept coming well into June. The poor flowers, when they could finally pop their heads out, had a hard time keeping from drowning. Eventually, many of them succumbed to root rot and leaf spot. Mushrooms, on the other hand, flourished everywhere – in flower beds, in lawns, on rotting trees, between pavers and bricks. We had so many, it seemed that even the mushrooms had mushrooms. Many parts of New Jersey were flooded for weeks, and were declared disaster areas.
Then came the record heat in July – blazing temperatures, hovering above 100 degrees for several days, and in the 90’s for nearly two weeks straight. So much for all of the rain we had in the spring – by the time the heat wave was over, any grass, plants or flowers that hadn’t been regularly watered were gone, too. At least the houses that had gotten flooded that were not permanently damaged had a chance to start drying out. The oppressive heat put a strain on reservoirs and power grids.Mother Nature came to the rescue, though, with the arrival of Hurricane Irene. Bless her little heart, all the rain we didn’t get during the heat wave we got back in one single weekend. Once again, the rivers crested and we were under water. Many of our neighbors lost power, some for a week or more, and a state of emergency was declared. This time, the flooding was so severe that a number of homes had to be condemned. When the waters finally receded, the ground remained wet for so long that we had a fungus invasion the likes of which we have never seen. Strange, alien-looking life forms were taking over lawn areas overnight, and getting larger throughout the day. One of my neighbors actually had one of these autumn fungi spring out of a crack in his driveway and spread across the top of the pavement the size of a basketball. It had gotten too dark to get a good picture, and by the time I came by the following morning, it had dried up and collapsed. I wish I had been able to capture the photo, because I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it myself. As if all of this wasn’t enough, I suppose Mother Nature wanted to dress up for Halloween, because when we least expected it, we got a freak early snowstorm on October 29 which caused extensive damage. For those of you who have never seen a snowfall on trees that still have their leaves on them, it can be both beautiful and frightening. Those of us who were fortunate not to have lost power with Hurricane Irene were not spared this time. There was still so much moisture in the air and on the ground that the snow was heavy, and coated the leaf-laden trees, making the weight too much for the limbs to bear. Once the power went out and all was quiet, the sounds of tree branches cracking and crashing to the ground were everywhere. Our entire local area looked like a war zone, and it not only took weeks to clean up the debris, but delayed leaf cleanup once they did start falling.
So far, 2012 has been blissfully uneventful, with mild temperatures and beautiful sunny skies. I am very grateful, and hopeful that the entire year will follow the same pattern. But I’m not going to get comfortable with this feeling just yet……..