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Hopes for spring seem eternal The season has gotten off to a cold, soggy start, leaving sun-starved Western New Yorkers cooling their heels, waiting to finally kick off some warm-weather activities

No, it's not just our imaginations -- or our short memories.

And no, it's not just because last spring was so warm.

Spring really has gotten off to a cool and damp start, and the National Weather Service has the numbers to prove it.

"This is colder and wetter than normal, definitively," meteorologist Bill Hibbert said after crunching some numbers Tuesday, another cool spring day.

The late arrival of springlike weather -- piggybacking on a long, unrelenting winter -- means that some of our favorite spring and summer activities are getting off to a late start or depending on the weather to turn quickly.

People who run golf courses, marinas, seasonal restaurants, Little League baseball leagues, early fishing trips and other activities associated with warm and dry weather say they are a week, or even a month, behind schedule.

Boat owners may face the most challenges in getting their vessels into the water.

Those include ice-jammed marinas, damaged docks and colder temperatures that make it tougher to apply waxes and compounds. So boat owners don hooded sweat shirts and gloves, as they can only imagine the warm, care-free days of summer.

"Normally, we're in the water the first week of April," Jerry Kiener, a retired corrections officer from West Seneca, said of his 42-foot boat. "Now it looks like it's going to be the first week of May, if we're lucky.

"Right now, I'm very frustrated," Kiener added. "I've been boating 35 or 40 years, and I can't remember a winter hanging on for so long."

Boaters aren't the only ones warily eyeing the weather forecasts. So are golfers, owners of seasonal restaurants and even visitors heading to Niagara Falls for the Cave of the Winds and Maid of the Mist attractions.

Due to the somewhat unseasonable weather, the opening of the Beaver Island State Park Golf Course has been moved from this Thursday to April 29.

"It's directly attributable to the soggy weather," said Angela P. Berti, spokeswoman for the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.

Farther north, the weather has pushed back the full opening of the Cave of the Winds at Niagara Falls.

The full Cave of the Winds experience, including the annually rebuilt stairs and hurricane deck, usually is available in late April or early May. That now will be pushed back to mid- or late May.

Workers are at the site but not spending all their time rebuilding the steps and deck.

"They're spending a lot of time chipping away at the ice, which Mother Nature typically takes care of," Berti said.

Owners of seasonal restaurants also depend on balmy temperatures.

"Sometimes we get lucky," said Tucker Curtin, owner of Dug's Dive, a restaurant at Buffalo's Small Boat Harbor. "This year we're not so lucky. I think the groundhog was wrong."

But Curtin, the owner of two other local restaurants, is an undaunted Buffalonian. He still plans to open Dug's Dive on Monday, about a day earlier than last year.

"As soon as the weather breaks, everybody will be walking around in their T-shirts and flip-flops," he said. "We could get one 70-degree day, and they'll forget about the run of cold days."

Now, though, impatience rules, aggravated by the long anticipation for milder weather.

"We just can't wait," Hibbert said. "We want it to be here now."

So how wet and cold has it been?

A total of 0.7 inches of snow fell here Monday, and while that's no blizzard, it did bring the April snow total up to a full inch. Forecasters believe that makes it the snowiest April in the last nine years.

The rain has been the real culprit, though, showering the area with almost 50 percent more rainfall than normal in March and April.

Through early Tuesday, the Weather Service had recorded 2.52 inches of rain this month and 4.63 inches last month. That's 7.15 inches, compared with the 30-year average of 4.82 inches over the same period.

"With below-average temperatures and above-average precipitation, the ground stays very moist and still has ponded water," Hibbert said.

That's not to say we haven't had any warm weather. The National Weather Service this spring reported highs of 77 degrees on April 10, followed by 74 degrees the following day. But both days also had lows of about 43 degrees, early one day and late the next.

And from March 24 to 28, the temperature never got above freezing.

"That's a heck of a way to start spring," Hibbert said.

This spring also hasn't seen the warm temperatures from a year ago. Last April, the first three days of the month featured highs of 78, 79 and 84 degrees. And the first eight days of April 2010 posted daily average temperatures between 11 and 28 degrees above the long-term averages for those dates.

No such luck this spring.

"For the rest of the month, it doesn't look promising," Hibbert said. "And I hate to say it, but it's not going to be the best Easter weekend."

Still, Western New Yorkers know how to adapt. We grumble, then go on with our business.

As Curtin said, "If you depend on the weather to do things here in Buffalo, you'll never get anything done."

e-mail: gwarner@buffnews.com

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