Winter 2013-14: Here?s what you lived through
The unrelenting winter of 2013-14 seemed to go on for ever. Since the first flakes began falling last October and November, the winter took to a nasty habit of alternating between the deep freeze and piling up the snow.
But just how bad was the winter of 2013-14, when breaking down the numbers, it becomes abundantly clear.
The first measure of the winter is the DNR’s winter severity index. A severe winter is categorized as anything over 100. The DNR measures days with temperatures below freezing and days with ground cover of at least 18 inches of snow. This year, the winter severity index is at 140. Compare that to last year, when the index came in at 44. The biggest difference this year was the bitter cold. The DNR counted 66 days with below zero readings compared to just 26 last year.
But how cold was it this winter. From December to March, Rhinelander averaged a temperature of 4.7 degrees. That is the coldest winter on record in terms of average temperature. Normal for this time of year is a reading of 15.1.
And that cold not only played a role in affecting wildlife and personal comfort it also made keeping the streets safe all that more difficult. The city of Rhinelander actually used less salt this winter than last with 418 tons used this time around, compared to 576 a year ago. But the reason for that is chilling as street supervisor, Tom Gilman explains.
“A big reason why the salt usage was down is because of the extreme cold winter we experienced,” Gilman said. “Salt typically is ineffective below 15 degrees or it thaws ice and then refreezes which encourages requests for more salt.”
So to help provide traction on area roadways, the city turned to a different product, sand. Crews used 3,629 tons of sand this year compared to 2,695 tons a year ago.
City workers were also busy battling the cold below the streets as water pipe freeze ups kept city water from getting to residential houses. Mayor Dick Jahns said more than 500 service calls were made by city works to unfreeze pipes for area residents. But that was not the only area the city needed to thaw out.
The city had 50 calls for storm sewer freeze ups that kept any water that did melt from clearing out of the streets. Gilman said the city is still working on 12 of the sewers but with the warmer weather, he said he hopes no more crop up.
While the city felt the sting of the cold, private residents and businesses were also suffering to heat their structures. The much publicized propane shortage left many people unable to pay skyrocketing bills for heating fuel. But those on supplied natural gas also saw a hit in the pocketbook.
According to WPS, this winter was 20 percent colder than the winter a year ago. But the average bill for consumers rose 49 percent. For the months of January through March, the gas bill was $679.30 for the season compared to $455.39 from last season.