“La Nada” – winter can go either way

BY ALEX HOLT

For hardware stores such as Old Takoma Ace Hardware in Takoma Park, the colder this coming winter is, the better. Bicycle shops like Green Commuter are hoping for the exact opposite. According to two local meteorologists, both businesses have about even odds of getting what they want from this year’s winter forecast, which started on Dec. 1.

Topper Shutt, the chief meteorologist for WUSA-TV in Washington D.C., said that meteorologists base much of their long-range winter forecasts on the strength of two weather currents, El Nino and La Nina.

“This year there’s no El Nino and there’s no La Nina so we’re kind of calling it “La Nada,” Shutt said. “There’s not much to hang our hat on. La Nada winters can kind of go either way. If you’re a snow lover you’re not going to be happy. Statistically if you’re betting the odds, you’re going to have below average snowfall.”

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Nate Duncan, Ace Hardware assistant manager, is shovel-ready.

That’s not such great news for Nate Duncan, the assistant manger of Ace Takoma Park.

Duncan said his store actually prefers snowier winters because it means better sales for his business.

“During the winter, I’d say business would probably be better if . . .  we ended up with more precipitation,” Duncan said. “Some of our big sales during the winter are snow shovels, ice melt and that kind of thing. A more mild winter, you don’t need the ice melt, plus you’re not doing the lawn and gardening – so for our business during the winter, snow’s a good thing.”

Almost the opposite is true for Jo Reyes, the owner of The Green Commuter. Reyes said that his business tends to drop off in the winter months.

“It’s a slow time of year for us for sure,” Reyes said.

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Jo Reyes of The Green Communter, considers the cloudy sky.

That’s true even in years where there isn’t as much snowfall.

“It’s not so much snow, we don’t get a lot of snow here,” Reyes said. “It’s just the cold weather and the damp rainy, weather. Most of our customers are recreational cyclists so you don’t see a lot of those coming in during this time of year.”

Reyes did say that there are a few items that sell better for Green Commuter during the winter months, such as lights, gloves, headgear and balaclavas.

“We do a lot of lights this time of year,” Reyes said. “We do have a strong following of commuters so things they need on a regular basis for safety.”

Just because Shutt and National Weather Service general forecaster Bryan Jackson don’t think this year’s snowfall will be above normal doesn’t mean there isn’t still a chance for a snowier winter this year.

Jackson, who works for the NWS at its Baltimore/Washington Forecast Office in Sterling, Va., echoed Shutt’s forecast but did caution that long-range weather forecasts are still somewhat unreliable.

“Seasonal forecasting is still in essentially its infancy as far as being able to predict it with skill,” Jackson said. “They set the threshold pretty low of just temperature and precipitation.”

About the Author

Alex Holt
Alex Holt is a first-year graduate student in the Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland and a recent graduate of Ithaca College. When not at school, he lives in Baltimore, Maryland and he hopes to eventually pursue a career in sports journalism.