Jan 9th, 2012 @ 2:29 pm | Author: Dr. Steve Shirley
Without a doubt, our winter (or lack thereof) has been one of the mildest since weather records began and will certainly be remembered for the pleasant conditions. There are pros and cons associated with such weather. After the past several winters and record snowfalls, however, I would think most of us would concur that the positives of our mild winter certainly outweigh the negatives. Of course, there are outdoor winter enthusiasts who likely would appreciate seeing more of the white stuff on the ground.

For many of us, the mild weather and minimal snowfall during the past ten weeks has been a most welcome change. On a personal basis, this weather afforded me the opportunity to ice-fish on Lake Ashtabula (thanks to John Hill!) right before Christmas, and just days later play a round of golf. Golfing the day after Christmas in North Dakota is an experience I may never have again.

There are many other beneficial outcomes resulting from this weather. Valley City State University has saved much in the way of resources (employee overtime, salt, sand, fuel, and general stress) by not having several feet of snow to plow and clear from campus sidewalks and streets. There has not been a single day yet this winter where we have had to contemplate closing the campus or canceling classes. This saves much in the way of headaches and angst in preparation and planning among our faculty and students. For our students who have traveled (athletic teams, clubs and organizations, individual students heading home for the Holidays, etc.) there have not been any major concerns regarding road conditions or winter weather hazards.

Perhaps the most positive impact the mild start to the 2011-12 winter has had on the VCSU campus is the ability to make significant progress on the Rhoades Science Center expansion project. The project officially began on November 7, and there has rarely been a single day the past two months where progress has not been made. The ability to get a jump start on this project in late Fall 2011 coupled with the wonderful weather conditions (instead of waiting until Spring 2012 to begin), will result in the project being successfully completed a semester (or two) earlier than would normally be expected. This expedited timeline will benefit many current students and faculty, and allow VCSU to continue promoting this wonderful new facility to future VCSU students as well.

All the positive attributes of our favorable conditions from Mother Nature listed above do not even address perhaps the biggest benefit of this winter. This is the first January in the past four years where my mind is not constantly contemplating what might await the campus in March and April regarding flood possibilities. I am sure our entire region would agree a respite from this particular issue has been a most welcome change. Our dry fall and mild winter with minimal snowfall should certainly create more favorable conditions in the spring months ahead.

I sincerely hope you have all had an opportunity to enjoy this mild winter. Of course, as North Dakotans, we all know that our fortunes can change in an instant and the next ten weeks ahead could be a completely different story!