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Hey, where is our winter?

It was a very pleasant finish to a very unusual year of weather.

Dan Jordan of South Buffalo and his wife, Debbie, spent part of the last day of 2006 taking a stroll along the waterfront at their favorite park, the Erie Basin Marina. Many Western New Yorkers took advantage of a calm and unseasonably warm day, spending time in the great outdoors.

"This is great. This is our favorite place to walk," said Jordan, 60. "I don't miss the snow at all . . . We've been through plenty of winters."

What happened to winter, anyway?

The season that made Buffalo famous introduced itself memorably -- technically out of season, in early October -- then disappeared, replaced by weather more suited for its more temperate cousins.

The last month of 2006 will go down as the fourth warmest December in the 136 years of Buffalo's recorded weather history, with an average temperature of 37.5 degrees. That's more than 7 1/2 degrees above the average for the month.

Anyone who was here will long remember the start of the 2006-07 winter. A freak lake effect storm Oct. 12 and 13 dropped close to 2 feet of heavy, wet snow on trees still burdened with leaves, snapping limbs and leaving thousands without power or phones.

Bright sunshine and rising temperatures over the next several days made the snow disappear. Since then, snow has been a no-show.

Buffalo Niagara has had only 9.6 inches after the October storm, which is nearly 27 inches below the average for November and December, and the third lowest total for the two-month period in the 64 years since Buffalo's weather records began to be kept at Buffalo Niagara International Airport.

The 7.5 inches of snow that fell in December represents the seventh lowest total for the month since record-keeping switched to the airport.

"It's impressive stuff," said National Weather Service meteorologist Steve McLaughlin. "We'll also close out December with 23 consecutive warmer than normal days."

At 43 degrees at Buffalo Harbor, Lake Erie has never been this warm at this point in the year, which means there is still plenty of potential for lake-effect snow.

"Our lake-effect season usually ends in mid- to late-January," McLaughlin said. "But we still need enough cold air to create lake-effect, so it's not a sure thing we'll get it in February, either."

In fact, he said, the Weather Service's outlook for the next two weeks calls for things to stay mild.

"Last year, we saw very little [lake] ice but very little lake-effect either. Maybe the Oct. 12-13 storm used up all the lake's energy," McLaughlin said. "We will see."

News Staff Reporter Dan Herbeck contributed to this report.

e-mail: jbonfatti@buffnews.com

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