Phil Lewis: The chilling facts about our 'Georgia winter'

Phil Lewis
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I heard a term not long ago that I’m helping spread around. Someone said we were having a “Georgia winter.”

Our temperatures in December through the middle of March were far cooler than average. The highs and lows were more typical of a winter in Valdosta or Macon, Ga., than in South Florida.

The winter also was unusual rain-wise.

Robert Sobczak, a hydrologist with the Big Cypress National Preserve, blogs — we used to call it “writes a daily journal” — about weather and rainfall at http://sfwj.blogspot.com. We’ve featured a link to his blog on naplesnews.com the past few years.

This past week’s blog entry shows weekly rainfall totals — especially in December and March — outdoing totals during some weeks in previous Junes and Julys, the start of our rainy season.

As for winter temperatures, Sobczak says that by his calculations this winter was about twice as cold as last year.

“Last year we had 20 days that didn’t break 70 degrees compared to 40 this year,” Sobczak reported.

But he reports, we’ve had cooler winters before — and not that long ago.

“In terms of number of days that didn’t rise above 70 (degrees) and nights that fell below 45 (degrees), this year falls a notch short of the winter of 1994-1995. And, at least in Naples, instances of sub-45 (degree) nights appear to have been a more common occurrence in the 1980s.” Sobczak wrote.

If you have a keen interest in local rainfall and temperature, you’ve got to check out Sobczak’s blog.

* * *

Newspapers across Florida just completed the annual observance of Sunshine Week to promote the need for open government.

Unfortunately, things aren’t going well in Tallahassee, where the state Legislature is in session.

Barbara Petersen, who monitors bills each year that relate to public records and public meetings, sent editors the following distress message:

“The way things are going this session, don’t buy stock in sunscreen.”

She says she’s finding “more shade, less sunshine.”

She said good open-government bills — there are several this session, including one that would extend Sunshine Law provisions to state legislators — aren’t being heard.

“We’re nearing the end of the third week of session, and there’s been little movement on the handful of bills that would actually reform our open-government laws,” she laments.

Time to start dialing up our state reps and senators.

* * *

On Wednesday, the Marine Corps League of Naples held its annual observance honoring the free press in America.

This year’s observance — the sixth-annual Honor the Free Press Day — was standing room only, until they moved in an extra table to handle the overflow luncheon crowd at the Naples Hilton.

Jim Lehrer, host of the PBS “Newshour,” was this year’s speaker. He’s a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps as well as one of the most respected journalists in the nation.

Those introduced during the luncheon program included a general who is a Medal of Honor winner, a 96-year-old sergeant major who saw action at Guadalcanal as well as in Korea and Vietnam, and young students who are part of New Beginnings, a school program credited with changing the lives of youngsters.

It all ended with a tribute to “fallen journalists,” those who never made it back from covering wars and other conflicts.

Such an observance is thought to be unique. If there’s another “Honor the Free Press Day” being held somewhere in the world we haven’t heard about it.

So this is a good time to applaud the person responsible — Mike Trephan, the public information officer for the E.T. Brisson Detachment of the Marine Corps League of Naples.

His idea has grown into an extraordinary celebration of the First Amendment.

Thanks, Mike. Job well done.

* * *

We have reports of another extraordinary community event that will be packed to the walls.

This May’s annual Winged Foot Award banquet, where local high-school scholar-athletes are honored, is a sellout. The speaker this year is Tim Tebow.

Friday, they started a waiting list for table sponsors and individual tickets.

The only availabilities left are seven school sponsorship tables.

Phil Lewis is editor of the Daily News. His e-mail address is plewis@naplesnews.com

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