Emerald Isle's Saint Patrick's Day Festival is next Saturday!
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Whiplash Weather

Extraordinary warmth in February, cold early in March

For almost a month one of the main weather reporting stations on the Crystal Coast has been showing temperatures ten to fifteen degrees too warm.  We were in the upper seventies a number of times in February but the current area statistics for February which show us hitting 90F are obviously wrong.  Besides the upper seventies, we have felt a chill as the temperatures have dropped to thirty degrees Fahrenheit for three mornings in a row this first week in March.  It is hard to complain about that since other than a few days early in January which as a whole was warmer than normal, we have not faced the penetrating cold that has kept us frozen at times during January and February of the three previous winters.

It has been refreshing to go on hikes in February while wearing shorts and t-shirt but it has been hard on clothes.  Many times I have started the day in blue jeans only to switch to shorts after my morning walk. Yet when it is time for my evening walk, I change back into blue jeans and usually end up wearing a coat. Only dedicated runners seem to be able to maintain bare legs throughout the day this time of year.

In spite of the chill and winds of early March, signs of spring seem to be running about two weeks ahead of last year.  The Bradford pear trees are already blooming. Daffodils and other early flowers have been blooming for a while and in warm spots the grass is turning green.  Also our spring low tides are here as you can see from this picture of Bogue Sound taken from the Emerald Isle Bridge on Saturday, March 4.  We have already had our fair share of the wind that usually accompanies spring on the coast but we know that is far from over. Even so it is hard to predict the complete end of winter since once every few decades significant snow can come in March on the coastal plain. My guess is that we will see our first ripe strawberries around the end of March. True spring to me comes with the first ripe local strawberries which can show up as late as the middle of April.

Water temperatures have dropped from the sixties down to the mid-fifties for the surf and the mid-forties for the sound.  While cool water temperatures protect us from heat waves as summer approaches, they also slow the arrival of spring when we want plants to start growing. In spite of the recent cooling of our waters, one way or the other it will be spring soon. The sun when it shines this time of year in North Carolina has power that can only be appreciated when it hits your back.  Thanks to the warmth of February we already have radish seeds that have germinated and are growing. Our lettuce and broccoli transplants are also doing well and our onion sets are breaking through the ground. The winter garden is still producing kale and lettuce.  Amazingly our wagon train tomatoes are not only still producing tomatoes, but they have exploded with blooms.  I picked six ripe tomatoes this weekend. We have enjoyed fresh tomatoes in December, January, February, and March so I cannot complain about this year’s gardening weather.  We will likely be putting some tomato plants into the ground before the end of March. They are happily growing in my office now and will soon migrate to our garage to get ready to live outside.

While the water is still a little cold for kayaking, that can change quickly.  It is probably less than a month away from my first kayaking trip of spring.  I can hardly wait to get back out on the water. I have not been on the water in three months since a spool on our boat lift needed repairs.  I just picked up the lift motor with the new spool last week which is why I this post has a picture of Brock Mill Pond near Trenton. Perhaps I can get out in my skiff this next week and enjoy some time on the White Oak River. Being on the water is a first big step towards spring. I have to get on board since spring events are announcing the beginning of the season whether the weather cooperates or not.

The first outdoor festival of the season, the Emerald Isle Saint Patrick’s Day Festival, is Saturday, March 11.  Usually it is followed by the Swansboro Oyster Roast but I have been unable to find any information about this year’s event or even if it happening.  However, I am planning on attending the Coastal Conservation Association banquet for the Crystal Coast chapter in Morehead City the evening of March 18.  There is also a Jones Island Eco-Tour by boat on Sunday, March 19.  This is sponsored by Hammock's Beach State Park. For those of you not familiar with the area, Jones Island is the big island that you can see when looking north from the Highway 24 bridges in Swansboro.  It is the first island when you head north up the White Oak River.

Some of you will be happy to hear that the mystery of the on-again, off-again Bojangles restaurants has finally been solved.  There will be two new Bojangles restaurants in the area.  One will be across Highway 24 near the Wendy’s in Swansboro close to the Rotary Civic Center.  The other will be adjacent to the BB&T in Cedar Point.  Our no longer embattled Walmart is at the big piles of dirt stage of construction.  The new pier house and construction work at Bogue Inlet Pier appears to be nearing completion.  Rucker John’s in Emerald Isle appears to be still closed for its remodeling.  Construction is well underway for a new Dollar General store in Peletier on Highway 58 just north of the Pettiford Creek Bridge before you get to the Taylor Notion turn-off.  Also if you have not visited the area recently and Highway 17 from the New Bern by-pass to Maysville is part of your journey, you will be surprised to find the first section of the new Highway 17 almost done. It appears they are getting ready to switch us to the new elevated section while they tear up and raise the old lanes.
Our next newsletter should come out in April and I promise to have pictures from the water and the beach by then.  Our previous newsletter, Paddling into the Holidays, can be accessed by clicking the link.  You can always keep up on my other web posts by visiting this site.

Enjoy the warmth when you can find it,

David Sobotta
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