Mild thing

Daniel Pullen

Brett Barley with no hood on this warm winter day on the Outer Banks.

What is this? Febtober?

Last winter, I was writing about how Old Man Winter had knocked us down on the East Coast and repeatedly kicked us in the ribs. Anyone north of the Carolinas was using a snow shovel way more than a 6'1.

This year, I'm reporting on Invest 90 -- a tropical-weather feature that formed on Saturday in the northwest Caribbean.

Most of us know that tropical features don't really show up on the map until July. Hurricane season officially starts on June 1. Every few years, some low-pressure system forms near the equator in May and we think it's a big deal. This one formed relatively unnoticed in February while everyone was up to his or her elbows in wing sauce, watching the Super Bowl. The storm was only a rainmaker for South Florida, but this is only the second time such a disturbance has ever been recorded.

Basically the entire country has been enjoying a lighter version of winter than we have in years ... knock on wood. Southern California has been living it up in the 70s and 80s, while the normally storm-ravaged East Coast has been as mild as that jar of salsa you polished off when the Pats still had the lead.

The weather anomaly makes some of the long-term forecast services look a little silly as they predicted La Niña would freeze-out the continental U.S. Accuweather went so far as to state, "another brutally cold and snowy winter for a large part of the country, thanks in large part to La Niña," in an October prediction.

But just like La Niña forecasts have proved wrong for the North Shore winter, the rest of the country hasn't seen the cold gloom and frozen doom that was called for, unless you're a powder person. ESPN Snowboarding's, Jesse Huffman mused a month ago about how poor early snowfalls had been to resorts across the country, especially in the Northeast. But Vermont's extended bummer has been Florida's extended summer.


Shea Lopez, airing out his trunks this warm winter in Florida.

"The previous two winters had been miserable -- coldest air temps on record, water dropped to 49 at Smyrna, with day after day of howling northwest winds and flat for weeks on end," said former World Tour-turned-shred analyst, Shea Lopez Monday, before heading out for a quick session. "This year, the water has been around 68 with air temps in mid-70s. The surf, although average, has been very consistent. I surfed twice from Christmas to Valentine's Day last year in Florida. This year I've been getting in the water frequently for fun surfs with my family and friends at home. For someone who has spent most of his life surfing far away places with strangers, fun surf behind the house can be the best thing in the world."

Consistent surf hasn't been the case for the rest of the East Coast. The Outer Banks, Delmarva, New Jersey, Long Island, Rhody and Northern New England have been able to cheat on the rubber but are getting less of those empty open tubes that you hope for in the winter. I surfed for over an hour in New Jersey last week without a hood, but there's only been one or two days of drainers since December.

As Lopez mentioned, we haven't been forced to endure those cold arctic air masses coming down to kill the surf, but save for a few hours here and there, we haven't seen any extended south swells or retrograding lows. And those who have traveled to traditional Atlantic locations like the Caribbean have spent more time drinking rum than they care to admit. Fortunately, Puerto Rico just got a solid swell on Monday to sober everyone up.

Rachel Tanner

North Carolina's Fisher Heaverly enjoying the first decent swell Puerto Rico has had in weeks .

Right now, there's nothing very dramatic in the forecast. Hopefully the warmer temps will mean a dynamic March/April and the Right Side gets back into the swing before spring.

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