Winter gets its walking papers

So much for February being the shortest month. Here in the Upper Midwest, it lasted a full 10 weeks.

This was the winter of our discontent, a seemingly never-ending barrage of snow flurries and icy winds so depressing most of us plugged in our electric socks and jumped into the nearest lake, ready to end it all. Fortunately, all the lakes were frozen.

It appears Old Man Winter has loosened his icy grip at last, a full two months after both Punxsutawney Phil and Jimmy the Groundhog predicted an early spring. Apparently, those two rodents joined the meteorologists’ union, because they were as wrong as Crocs with black socks.

Most years, we in the Upper Midwest figure once we survive February, with its brutal cold and endless darkness, we’ve turned the corner to spring. Old Man Winter is like that distant relative who arrives to occupy your guest room over the holidays: You don’t mind him showing up for Christmas, but he starts wearing out his welcome soon thereafter. If he tries to stick around until Easter, you put a one-way bus ticket in his basket.

This year’s stay takes the cake. Old Man Winter hung around through the Final Four and Opening Day, dropping the white stuff on us a full three weeks after the official start of spring.

I think the situation was pretty well summed up last week, when my phone buzzed with two weather alerts. One was a spring flood warning. The other was a winter weather advisory. You know it’s been a slow-starting spring when you’re bracing for snow and spring flooding at the same time.

Now that tax day has passed and we’ve begun planning for graduation parties, the forecast finally shows a steady string of days with high temperatures in the 50s. (We ask for so little up in these parts.) At the risk of jinxing it, and watching Old Man Winter pull a U-turn - “Oops, it looks like I missed the last bus out of town!” - I think we can at last say spring has sprung.

This is good news for a populace that hasn’t been this depressed since Brett Favre retired. The first time and third times. After all, one of the things we love most about this part of the country is enjoying the change of seasons.

Ask natives what they miss most after moving to more temperate locales, and they all say it’s the seasons. (Well, that and being able to pick up a six-pack of Leinie’s at every grocery store, bait shop and taxidermy office.) The problem is, we get robbed of that quarterly joy when a season refuses to change. Like Favre, Old Man Winter just couldn’t bring himself to hang ‘em up.

Just think, 13 months ago in this very space I lamented Old Man Winter’s demise. With an average temperature pushing 30 degrees, last winter was the fourth-warmest on record. Snowfall was a foot low. It was so nice out, we didn’t know what do with ourselves: In March 2012, highs were in the 50s - that’s sunbathing weather in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

A year later, our March madness pushed on into April as we fought off colds and scraped windshields and bundled up and shoveled walks and all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy ... redrum, redum.

“Surely there will be retribution for this tropical winter weather,” I wrote. “But so far, the only Blizzards on the radar or those being served at Dairy Queen, which is unusually busy this March, what with all this beach weather.”

At the time, I was concerned payback would arrive in the form of May snow showers. Instead, Mother Nature evened the score with a 2012-13 winter that lasted longer than the NHL playoffs.

But unlike the NHL playoffs, winter can’t be ignored. We had to slog through, hopeful that at some point the sun - that’s the warm, orange orb that used to hang in the sky - would shine on us again.

It appears our faith has been rewarded, and we can now enjoy the next season in the Upper Midwest: Mud.

Follow columnist Ben Bromley on Twitter at ben_bromley.

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