Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Spring you say. Where is it?

Below-normal temperatures affect moods, outdoor sports

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It's the Winter That Won't End -- 30 straight days of below-average temperatures that have been described by a local meteorologist as "a very strange occurrence."

Oh, and also very annoying.

Golfers are getting teed off. Soccer players aren't getting their kicks.

Worse, a prolonged string of sub-zero temperatures -- which reached a nadir of minus -19 C Monday night -- can even lead to depression and mood swings that sink with the temperatures.

Winnipeg has experienced below-average temperatures every day since March 10, a string of 30 days and counting.

"It's unusual to have below-normal temperatures for this long," said Environment Canada meteorologist Natalie Hasell. "To have to wear winter clothes in April... even in Winnipeg, that's a stretch. It's different now because we've been dealing with it for a very long time."

Hasell noted cold weather this deep into the year is not without precedent. For example, the record low for April 5 was -26.7 C, set in 1936. The record low for April 9 was -21.6 C in 1997.

However, the normal temperatures for this period range between lows of -4 C and highs of 9 C.

Manitobans aren't shivering alone, either. Temperatures in southern Saskatchewan and across Alberta have been reaching their own records -- at least, on the cold side.

Meanwhile, double-digit lows and measly highs have golf and soccer officials anticipating delays to their respective seasons.

Most public golf courses in Manitoba open in mid-April, which would require a relative heat wave in the next two weeks.

"Obviously, we're not happy with the cold," said Peter Ewert, head professional at Larter's at St. Andrews. "But there's nothing saying it might not happen."

But Ewert allowed Mother Nature giveth and she taketh away. After all, the spring of 2012 saw temperatures soar into the 20s in mid-March, and courses were open before April Fools' Day.

"Last year spoiled us," he said. "It was crazy."

Manitoba Soccer Association executive director Hector Vergara said outdoor soccer leagues might be delayed at least a week, too, from the normal starting dates in early May. But he's not too concerned yet.

"We've had it good," Vergara said, referring to last spring's early arrival. "This is Winnipeg. You have to take the good with the bad. Besides, we can play with a little snow on the ground."

Morris Glimcher, executive director of the Manitoba High Schools Athletic Association, said the longer-than-normal winter will likely force high school coaches and teachers to change some plans.

"Soccer will definitely be affected," Glimcher said.

"We have a short season as it is, but this could be shorter. We might have to have a playoff weekend and then the provincial finals."

Glimcher said students can still train for track and field indoors, but spring camps for football teams could also be negatively affected.

Dave Hanson of Sage Garden Herbs said he's seeing many people coming to his greenhouse, not all looking for plants to buy.

"Psychologically, this winter has been wearing on people," Hanson said. "We're getting a lot of people coming in who just want to see the plants. It's warm in here and it is beautiful. It's a nice place to be."

Not everyone sees the thermometer as half full, however.

Tara Brousseau-Snider, executive director of the Mood Disorders Association of Manitoba, said phone calls to her organization seeking help have been running 25 per cent higher in the past week.

"They want to know where to get help," Brousseau-Snider said on Tuesday. "These are brand-new people calling who don't know about us. And while normally we'd get a call asking what is depression, these are people calling for help saying they want to get out of this mood."

Brousseau-Snider said an estimated 30,000 Manitobans suffer from seasonal affective disorder, in which people get depressed because of the shorter period of sunshine during winter, but the callers phoning now are more than just those people.

Brousseau-Snider said her organization is telling the callers to get out and do something different: "Go to a gym if you don't normally go to one, and go for a walk just to get some sunshine."

And, Brousseau-Snider said, they are also receiving calls from rural residents. "People there are very concerned about the flood so it is happening out there too, but with them it is both anxiety and depression," she said.

Meanwhile, the forecast isn't promising.

A ridge of high pressure is currently funnelling cold air into southern Manitoba from as far north as Baffin Island, which was responsible for the -19 C temperature on Monday night. Said Hasell: "It's real arctic air, basically."

And by the time the ridge moves across the province this weekend, when highs are forecast to climb to 6 C on Saturday. However, a "precipitation event" on Monday and Tuesday is expected to drop either rain or wet snow on southern Manitoba next week.

What's yet be determined is the effect of the prolonged spring on potential flooding. The province issued a report last week predicting flooding along the Red River is now expected to be similar to that of the major flood in 2009.

A new flood forecast is scheduled to be issued this week, based on the latest conditions.

kevin.rollason@freepress.mb.ca randy.turner@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 10, 2013 B1

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Updated on Wednesday, April 10, 2013 at 6:34 AM CDT: replaces photos, adds fact box

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