Blossoms in December

Friday, December 15, 2006
Sunny, warm weather has brought out these tulips at the May Greene Garden in Cape Girardeau. The flowers will probably survive the winter, but their flowers might not be as bright when spring arrives. (Diane L. Wilson)

Tulips are poking out of the ground in the May Greene Garden in Cape Girardeau.

Gardening expert Paul Schnare has seen azaleas bloom.

Violets have started blooming in Barbara Port's garden, and the carnations never went away.

Warm weather this fall has started visible growth in plants that normally wouldn't be seen until spring. Port, who also helps maintain the May Greene Garden, said the tulip bulbs that are sprouting there started growing in November with the string of abnormally warm days around Thanksgiving.

After a cold snap that reached a record low of 15 degrees Dec. 4 in Cape Girardeau, the temperatures have climbed again. The observed high at the Cape Girardeau Regional Airport reached 60 degrees Wednesday and 61 degrees Thursday, according to the National Weather Service. Weather service forecasts say highs in the 50s and 60s are likely to continue for another week.

"Temperatures in the 60s for highs in December are not the most common thing in the world," said Ryan Presley, a National Weather Service meteorologist based in Paducah, Ky. "But it's not completely unusual."

Presley didn't have data on record highs in Cape Girardeau. But the recent highs in the Cape Girardeau area are approaching the records in Paducah, which has a climate similar to Cape Girardeau's. Presley said record highs for this time of year are in the 60s and 70s for Paducah.

Wednesday's 61-degree high in Paducah was nine degrees below the record of 70, and Tuesday's 60-degree high fell short of the record 66.

Normal highs for this time of year are in the 40s. But for the next week, those will be the lows. The abnormal warmth is being caused primarily by a southwest flow of air, which would raise temperatures above the norm at any time of year, Presley said.

A cold front is expected to begin sweeping through the area Wednesday and Thursday, bringing back normal highs and lows. Showers and possible thunderstorms should affect the area ahead of the front, Presley said.

Springlike temperatures can also bring springlike phenomena such as thunderstorms. Several years have seen this kind of activity: severe weather in January 2000, a tornado outbreak in December 1957 and two outbreaks of tornadoes in November last year across the Paducah office's forecast area.

Most of the plants that are blooming probably will be fine, Schnare said. The winter growth won't kill them, he said. "If we lived in South Dakota, yes. But in Southeast Missouri, they're kind of used to it."

If some blooms get too large, though, Schnare advises plant owners to cover them at night.

While the tulips will survive, their flowers might not be as bright when spring arrives, Schnare said.

msanders@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 182


Numbers:

Lows

18 degrees on Dec. 3

15 degrees on Dec. 4 (record)

14 degrees on Dec. 7

9 degrees on Dec. 8

Highs

57 degrees on Dec. 11

61 degrees on Dec. 12

60 degrees on Dec. 13

61 degrees on Dec. 14

official observations at the Cape Girardeau Regional Airport

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