LAKE COUNTY — Winter is allegedly under way, but quite a few Lake County residents have yet to be convinced! The 2011-2012 season has been unusually free of snow, and the lack of precipitation has lots of people scratching their heads in puzzlement.

Many folks around town are delighted with this state of affairs, particularly because the relatively moderate temperatures have kept heating costs down, but the winter has so far been a serious disappointment to snowmobile fans and the owners of motels and restaurants who count on the tourist trade to get through the winter.

The first major snowstorm of the winter season roared into Lake County on the weekend New Year’s Eve and Jan. 1, posing challenges to holiday travelers — but fortunately motorists either drove carefully or stayed off the roads, and the holiday passed without any serious accidents. The Lake County Sheriff’s Department reported that the weekend saw no major vehicular collisions. “There were a few fender-benders, with minor dents and scratches and that sort of thing,” noted Sheriff Bob Hilts, “but we were really lucky. The bad weather conditions actually held off until after most holiday travelers had got to their destinations.”

Hilts added that a few weeks ago, the area had a preview of winter: about three inches of snow with icy roads. “The first time wintry weather shows up is always the worst time for us,” Hilts says. “People have forgotten what it’s like to drive on a slick street, and that is when most of the accidents occur. This little taste of winter came before the holiday and made everybody aware that they’d need to be cautious.”

Another plus was that none of the New Year’s Eve incidents reported involved alcohol. Evidently the word has gone out that drinking and driving do not mix, and Lake County residents are partying in a responsible manner. In addition, Baldwin and its environs have so far escaped house fires — so the new year got off to a good

start.

Since then, January 2012 has seen the arrival of a bit more snow as well as a big chill, with temperatures at dawn hovering in the low 20’s during the second week of the month. Weather-watchers are following the daily reports issued by national and regional services, but these often seem to contradict each other, with some predicting warmer trends and others sticking with the more conventional wisdom that looks for blizzards later in the month.

At present, snowmobilers are enjoying their sport on trails that have a nice cover of several inches, and hoping that no melt-off occurs. The jury is still out on the subject of whether Lake County will get a late, hard winter (as the Farmer’s Almanac foretold it would) or an early spring. February, March and April have yet to arrive, of course — and only they can tell the tale for sure!