"While it is not yet clear what the ultimate strength of this La Nina will be, La Nina conditions have returned and are expected to gradually strengthen and continue into the Northern Hemisphere winter (of) 2011-12," the CPC said in a monthly update.
La Nina was blamed in part for the severe snow storms which struck the U.S. last winter and the worst drought in a century which has ravaged Texas and swathes of the southwestern part of the country.
Most of us in the Midwest prepare for a bad winter, La Nina prediction or not. Here's a few reminder preparations for a winter of heavy and deep snow:
Arborvitaes usually have two or more trunks. Loosely tie them together about 2/3 of the way up with old nylon stockings. Heavy snow will often weigh those down and cause them to split open - often no repair is possible.
Make sure you have your snow blower serviced and make sure it will start. If you don't own one, make sure you have a functional shovel, clean, sharp and oiled. Keep one at home and keep on in the trunk of your vehicles.
Clean out the debris from your gutters. Debris is heavy and added snow can rip them off the house. In addition, the melting and freezing of snow on the roof needs to be able to run off and away.
Remove and store all garden ornaments near paths and driveways that will be buried in snow and be broke or trip someone.
Get an extra supply of kitty litter to put down on ice covered walks. Put another bag/box in each trunk in case you need traction.
If your winter machines run on gas, make sure you have full gas cans in a place where you can access but not where they are a hazard.
Use large covered storage tubs to store quantities of bird seed. The tubs keep mice out and keep repeat shopping at a minimum. A heavy snow cover prevents birds and animals from reaching food on the ground. Consider putting up bird shelters where they can roost away from the wind.
If you can afford the electric expense, invest in a bird bath heater. Make sure the extension is placed where it isn't a hazard (tripping, cut with snow blower, whipped by wind) and for outside use only. Wrap the connection with electrical tape.
Put up outside Christmas lights while it's still decent weather. Maybe not the twenty foot Santa balloon but certainly lights on trees, bushes, fences, etc. It will allow you to check them out without freezing. It will also allow you to have a plan for placing the plug-ins. The same warning goes as with the above extension cord. Make sure all outdoor extensions are free from nicks to the rubber coating and have no frayed wires. Remember electricity and moisture do not mix safely!
Tie down or weigh down any yard ornament, holiday decorations, tables, chairs, or other yard things. We tend to forget the brute force of winter winds especially when in conjunction with a winter snow storm.
Cover your grill or take inside. Fall is the best time to wash and store screens. Both last longer if they don't have to winter outside. Take in all fabric accessories: curtains, cushions, and pillows.
Any porch equipment, even if weather resistant, will last longer if you can store in a protected space. Rattan and wicker will rot away after a few years exposed to winter weather.
Wash all garden gloves and throw away those you can't save. No one needs twelve left hand gloves with no right hand gloves... Wash your ball caps and that stinky pair of garden shoes. THROW away anything ripped and uncomfortable.
Wash and dry all garden tools, oil metal and wood and store in a dry place. THROW away the tools that are simply past working right. If you can't throw away - hang them on the shed wall as decoration, but, stop moving old broken tools while your looking for the one that works.
Oil the rollers on your garage door, put up snow fence where it drifts (before the ground freezes), service the lawn mowers, weed eaters, blowers and any other machines with a gas engine. Add Sta-Bil to the gas tanks.
Add any raked leaves to your flower and garden beds. They make great insulation from the cold, they compost right into the soil, and they're free.
When adverse conditions are predicted, be prepared with a full tank of gas in your vehicles and generator. Have emergency medications, baby and elder care supplies and a plan if you loose your source of heat. Have your cell phones charged, extra batteries, a good flashlight, emergency band radio and perhaps candles and lanterns. (I always like to have a huge batch of chocolate chip cookies but that's just me.) Have your firewood dry and close to the house if you have a wood stove or fireplace.
And lastly, make sure your pets are able to have warm shelter from the winter winds and snow. My measure is if I'm not warm, neither is my pet and that's just not right. It doesn't mean they must be inside pets, but an insulated house, with a flap door that is protected from the wind, always fresh unfrozen water and plenty to eat. A nice layer of straw for an insulated bed and covered with a blanket. If it all gets wet, remove and replace with fresh. Bales of straw will make great insulation around a dog house and come spring they can be torn apart and put on the garden as mulch.
You know: one purpose of fall is to get all the winter preparations done that you've been putting off all summer. Since La Nina has been invited to the party, perhaps it's the perfect time to get your cha cha in gear and be prepared.