The winter solstice occurs at 12:30 a.m. EST this morning. It brings us the shortest day of the year and the weakest sunshine as the sun will be at its lowest point in the southern sky.
It is surely time to begin wondering how long winter will continue to dally off stage.
The historic probability that Chautauqua county will have a white Christmas is about 60 percent, according to folks at the Weather Channel. For purists, that does not sound like satisfying odds, nor would they be content with a mere dusting.
Too, with the snowmobile season officially opening in Chautauqua County yesterday and with ski centers always hoping for a strong start of the season over the Christmas holiday, this is not the time for faint-of-heart snowfalls — although that’s what even the long-range forecast seems to be predicting.
Even so, kudos to Sen. Cathy Young and county Legislator Fred Croscut of Sherman for organizing a confab of representatives from local police agencies and the state to talk with snowmobile clubs about how they will be affected by cuts in the county budget and what they can do about it.
In brief, Sheriff Joseph Gerace reiterated the fact that his department’s 2012 budget does not include the money needed to patrol the trails. He assured everyone that the sheriff’s department will continue to be available in emergencies. Others from the New York State Police, the New York State Park Police, the state Department of Environmental Conservation Police and the New York State Forest Rangers said their departments will continue to be available to support the safety of snowmobilers and, in some cases, will provide on-trail patrols.
Still, more than ever, the sled drivers will be responsible for their own safety and the safety of those who are with them when they are out enjoying the miles of trails available in both counties.
The three most effective guidelines to ensure no one is hurt or killed in the upcoming season are simple:
• Never drive a snowmobile recklessly.
• Do not operate a snowmobile while drunk.
• Do not speed and at night, do not over-drive your headlights.
We know that the majority of snowmobilers in our area take these responsibilities seriously.
We urge them to encourage others they encounter on the trails do likewise.