With fall newly arrived, it’s a time of year when St. Cloud homeowners can breathe a sigh of relief; relax and take it easy. With summer behind us, most gardens require less attention. The demands harsh winter weather will make are off in the distant future— or are they?
This year it might be prudent for St. Cloud homeowners to mentally remove a month or two from their home maintenance timetables. The reason comes in two familiar words (and they aren’t English): El Niño.
According to the government’s NOAA climate forecasters, there is “an approximately 95% chance that El Niño will continue through Northern Hemisphere winter 2015-2016…” Since that is definitely St. Cloud's hemisphere, they’re speaking to us. They answer the question, “How strong is this El Niño now?” with, “it’s pretty strong.” In August, it ranked second all-time (behind August 1997) in the Equatorial Southern Oscillation Index, which is one way of measuring its power. El Niño is the condition where weather shifts occur due to a change in warm ocean currents in the Pacific.
What this means to St. Cloud homeowners is as unpredictable as…well, as the weather! What is acknowledged is that normal patterns can be disrupted to varying degrees. The reason we can never get much clarity about how it’s going to affect us is that (unsatisfying though this answer may be), winter could be markedly more—or markedly less—stormy than usual. Since the maximum effect is expected in late fall through December (hence the Christmas allusion of the ‘El Niño’ name), St. Cloud homeowners might consider getting on with their winter maintenance preparations earlier rather than later.
So here—a bit earlier than usual—are some regular fall maintenance heads-ups:
- Check and fill the exterior gaps where critters, bugs, and cold air might enter
- Chimney maintenance: if you sweep once a year, schedule now
- Rain gutter check: even though leaves haven’t begun to fall in earnest, cleaning out the mucky old debris now will make later leaf removal a breeze
- Inspect the roof: if damage has happened, now is the time to schedule repair
- Ditto the driveway: fill cracks before winter
- Now is the perfect time to clean and stain the deck. Depending on how much sunlight it gets, it may need to be renewed annually (no matter what the stain can says!)
- Replace worn weather stripping around doors and windows—your winter heating bills will reward the effort.
As a check of comments on the weather sites confirms, local homeowners have differing memories of how previous El Niños have affected them. But since we are now officially in an El Niño year—it can’t be a bad idea to prepare ahead of time (and if you have St. Cloud real estate plans in the offing, now would also be a good time to give me a call)!