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Spring officially started nearly a month ago, but Mother Nature apparently didn't get the memo.

Winnebago and Hancock counties are under a blizzard warning until 1 a.m. Sunday, followed by a winter weather advisory until 1 p.m. Sunday. 

The National Weather Service is predicting 8 to 12 inches of snow in Winnebago and northwestern Hancock County, and 6 to 8 inches for the rest of Hancock County. 

A northeast wind 24 to 31 mph, with gusts as high as 40 mph, will cause decreased visibility. 

The Summit-Tribune coverage area has seen cold, windy weather and several other snowstorms since the spring equinox on March 20.

The snow has wrecked havoc with spring sports schedules at Forest City and West Hancock high schools and raised concerns about corn planting. 

Golfers could have to wait until the end of this month or even later to hit the links at area courses.

For some, the delayed spring has meant no relief from the winter blahs, while others have enjoyed the extra time to play in the snow.

Forest City High School Athletic Director Chad Moore said so many spring sports meets have been canceled or postponed for weather-related reasons that "we have kind of stepped outside the box."

The boys and girls track teams were finally able to compete for the first time this season on April 12, but they had to go south to do so. 

Arrangements were made for the boys to compete at Humboldt, while the girls traveled all the way to Eddyville in southeast Iowa. 

With golf, "we are really struggling," Moore said, noting Bear Creek Golf Course, in Forest City, isn't expected to open until the end of the month at the earliest.  

Keith Formanek, who manages the clubhouse at the Britt Golf Course, said the earliest date that course might be open is April 28. Normally the course opens before mid-April. 

Even after the snow melts, the ground will be soggy for a while, according to Formanek.

"There are areas that need to be cleaned up on the course," he said, noting the heavy snow caused some tree damage. 

Not being able to host high school golf meets has been the biggest headache so far, according to Formanek. 

"It's too bad for them (the players)," he said, noting at least three scheduled meets have been postponed or canceled. 

The golf course isn't losing a lot of income because most non-members don't start golfing until after June 1, according to Formanek.

Although some members may be getting anxious to get out on the greens, they can at least socialize at the clubhouse, he said.

The usual "19th hole" gatherings that normally take place during the season have begun. The only difference is there's no golf beforehand. 

The clubhouse restaurant also remains open on Wednesday through Saturday nights, as it has all winter, so people can eat supper there "no matter what the weather," Formanek said. 

The last day of classes in the Forest City School District originally was to be May 22, but due to snow days it's been changed to May 31 -- unless there's yet another cancellation. 

But the seniors won't have to come back after graduation on May 13 no matter what because the school board voted earlier this month to waive the additional snow days for them. 

West Hancock Schools begin the year with an extra five days built into the schedule in case of snow. 

West Hancock had six snow days this year, so the last day of school is currently set for May 24 -- only one day later than planned.

Mike Hejlik of Britt, president of the Hancock County Farm Bureau, said the lingering winter weather is becoming a bit of a concern for area farmers. 

The optimal time for planting corn is from around April 10 until May 10, according to Hejlik. 

He said he usually starts planting corn on April 20, but isn't sure the soil temperature will reach 50 degrees by then. 

If the soil is too cold, the corn won't sprout, he said. 

Hejlik said it doesn't matter much if the soil isn't at 50 degrees yet when corn is planted, as long as it warms up afterwards. 

"Today's seeds are tougher than ever," he said.

However, corn planting could truly become a concern if the soil doesn't reach 50 degrees by May 10, or if it's too wet for farmers to even get into the fields, Hejlik said. 

Soybeans have a much larger planting window than corn, according to Hejlik. Most farmers don't start planting beans until after May 1, he said. 

A delayed arrival of spring can be rough on those who have Seasonal Affective Disorder, according to Amber Nielsen, who provides counseling at the Hancock County Health System's medical clinics in Britt and Garner. 

This disorder, also known as SAD, is a type of depression that typically starts in late fall and can last until spring. 

"Research has shown that weather conditions do affect our moods for both positive and negative," Nielsen said. 

According to Psychology Today, 10 million Americans are affected by SAD, and another 10 percent to 20 percent of the population could suffer from mild symptoms of the disorder.

Some of the most common symptoms include loss of energy, feeling depressed most of the day, loss of interest in activities or social events, agitation, problems with sleep, feelings of hopelessness, and weight gain or loss.

"Long winters can be discouraging and difficult to overcome, especially for those experiencing SAD symptoms," Nielsen said. 

She encourages those who are feeling down to do whatever they can to stay active.

Nielsen also recommends staying involved in social events and activities "even when your body does not feel like it," and being conscious of what foods you are eating. 

Nielsen advises individuals to talk to a provider or a therapist if SAD symptoms worsen or persist.

Not everyone has been discouraged by the extra-long winter. 

On April 9, Holly Bergman of Britt and her 5-year-old son, Kipton, built a snowman sitting in a lawn chair waiting for warmer weather. 

They've made a number of snow creations the last couple of winters, including an upside down snowman and a fish. 

"He (Kipton) loves the snow and to be out in it playing, sledding and building things," his mom said. "He gets pretty excited anytime it snows."

She said she doesn't mind the snow. 

"It won't be long before everyone will be complaining about how hot it is," she said. 


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