Artist Nathaniel Flanagan works on a painting along Princeton Road Thursday. Flanagan said he paints outside in all kinds of weather. The weather next week will continue the string of unseasonably warm temperatures for the winter. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Record-setting winter temperatures benefiting Butler County schools, budgets

Elementary and middle school students have taken take advantage of the relatively balmy winter to have recess time outside. And more uninterrupted school days means more learning, said Betsy Fuller, spokeswoman for Lakota Schools.

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“At Lakota, we always prefer to have our students in class so this winter, so far, has been very favorable. It means more days of learning and opportunities for our students,” said Fuller.

Lakota operates 22 schools in West Chester and Liberty townships and only a few days this fall and winter have required snow shoveling and walkway salting.

“Of course there is still plenty of weeks of winter left but so far we have not had to dip too far into our salt supplies, and snow removal services have been minimal,” Fuller said.

Normal temperatures should return by the end of next week, said Jeffrey Sites, a National Weather Service meteorologist. He said cold air has been “locked up in Canada” by a warm front and “hasn’t been able to work down yet.”

“Things can, and will, change here,” Sites said. “We’ve been warm in January before. Every once in a while we get a pattern that will bring warm air up into the region.”

Record high temperatures for the Cincinnati region in January have reached into the 60s and 70s, according to the National Weather Service.

And the warm weather is perfect for a new Hamilton High School winter, after-school running club, said district spokeswoman Joni Copas.

“This is the first year for this club … so they have enjoyed the warmer weather,” said Copas.

Officials at Kings Schools in southern Warren County also appreciate the warm winter days.

“The nice weather makes it nice for our athletes to be outside with more space. Additionally, our athletics department benefit from not having to rearrange schedules for events that get canceled with inclement weather,” said Dawn Gould, spokeswoman for Kings.

She also said the warm winter is saving money, not only by not salting but heating costs are lower.”

The unseasonable weather so far has also helped local government budgets.

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Last January, the city of Middletown spent just less than $100,000 on 1,275 tons of road salt. So far this January, the city has spent nothing.

However, salt usage was up in November and December compared to those months last year.

“Anytime we have mild winter it helps out immensely,” said Fairfield Public Works Director Dave Butsch.

Fairfield used 3,500 tons of salt in 2018-19 and 3,900 in the 2017-18 season. But the city only used 1,300 in the 2016-17 season.

“One year we used 1,300 and the next year we used three times that,” Butsch said.

The city stores 4,000 tons of salt in its enclosed barn and uses between 3,000 to 4,000 tons of road salt during a winter season, spending upwards of $400,000, Butsch said. So far this winter season, Fairfield’s used just more than 600 tons.

While the usage is low season-to-date, Fairfield’s heaviest need for salt is the latter part of January and through February, Butsch said.

“We’re not out of the woods yet,” he said.

Sites said the region will “get a shot of cooler air” by Thursday, Friday and next weekend. It won’t bring the temperatures down to normal values but will be close to seasonal, he said.

Sunday and Monday may see temperatures in the upper 40s, and back into the 50s by Tuesday and Wednesday before they’ll drop to the upper 30s and lower 40s.

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