ASK TOM: Budding trees and cold spells

Dear Tom,

Are trees that begin sprouting after warm spells in March likely to suffer or be killed when cold spells occur after they have sprouted?

— Sharon North, Zion

Dear Sharon,

Probably not. That’s the word from Doris Taylor, plant information specialist at the Morton Arboretum. She says it would take a few weeks of abnormally mild temperatures in March followed by an outbreak of bitterly cold air (readings as low as zero degrees) to create serious problems for native trees.

Extended warmth in March would encourage magnolias, crab apple and other more sensitive trees to bloom earlier than usual. Their buds would not be harmed, but foliage would prove most vulnerable because those tissues are most sensitive. Other plants witha history of sprouting or blooming early deal with cold and snow quite successfully.

Weather snapshots

Some stunning sunrises and sunsets have graced the area over the weekend. Photographer Barry Butler sends us this shot which he identifies at an Easter Egg colored sunrise.Photos courtesy of Barry Butler, Chicago

Some stunning sunrises and sunsets have graced the area over the weekend. Photographer Barry Butler sends us this shot which he identifies at an Easter Egg colored sunrise.Photos courtesy of Barry Butler, Chicago

Patrick Pahl shares this beautiful sunset photographed from Grant Park, IL. Photo courtesy of Patrick Pahl, Grant Park, IL

Patrick Pahl shares this beautiful sunset photographed from Grant Park, IL. Photo courtesy of Patrick Pahl, Grant Park, IL

Several of you photographed coronas around the sun---different than halos in that they're formed when sunlight is refracted or bent passing through raindrops rather than ice crystals.  This shot comes from Dirk Leahy in Wauconda.  The bright illuminated circle of a corona is different than a halo because it touches the disk of the sun or moon whereas a halo is a bright circle of light which surrounds but doesn't touch the disc of the sun or moon. Photo courtesy of Dirk Leahy, Wauconda, IL

Several of you photographed coronas around the sun—different than halos in that they’re formed when sunlight is refracted or bent passing through raindrops rather than ice crystals. This shot comes from Dirk Leahy in Wauconda. The bright illuminated circle of a corona is different than a halo because it touches the disk of the sun or moon whereas a halo is a bright circle of light which surrounds but doesn’t touch the disc of the sun or moon. Photo courtesy of Dirk Leahy, Wauconda, IL

Controlled burns like this one near the home of storm chaser Brad Hruza in northwest suburban Elburn are conducted this time of year to eliminate fuel which may feed larger, more serious fires as summer comes on. Photo courtesy of Brad Hruza, Elburn, IL

Controlled burns like this one near the home of storm chaser Brad Hruza in northwest suburban Elburn are conducted this time of year to eliminate fuel which may feed larger, more serious fires as summer comes on. Photo courtesy of Brad Hruza, Elburn, IL

CHECK out this gorgeous Easter Sunday shot taken by Mike Zarnek at Chicago Botanic Garden yesterday. Photo courtesy of Mike Zarnek, Chicago Botanic Garden

CHECK out this gorgeous Easter Sunday shot taken by Mike Zarnek at Chicago Botanic Garden yesterday. Photo courtesy of Mike Zarnek, Chicago Botanic Garden

SUZIE FRITZ sends us this beautiful Mendota sunrise. Photo courtesy of Suzie Fritz, Mendota, IL

SUZIE FRITZ sends us this beautiful Mendota sunrise. Photo courtesy of Suzie Fritz, Mendota, IL

Lee Ecker sends us this shot and says “Here’s a pile of snow at the end of the parking lot off Main Street in Land O’Lakes Wisconsin which will be there a while! Photo courtesy of Lee Ecker, Land O’Lakes, Wisconsin

Lee Ecker sends us this shot and says “Here’s a pile of snow at the end of the parking lot off Main Street in Land O’Lakes Wisconsin which will be there a while! Photo courtesy of Lee Ecker, Land O’Lakes, Wisconsin

Janet Ellison sends us this shot of one of this afternoon’s showers and thunderstorms moving into Warrenville, IL. Janet Ellison, Warrenville, IL

Janet Ellison sends us this shot of one of this afternoon’s showers and thunderstorms moving into Warrenville, IL. Janet Ellison, Warrenville, IL

Lynn Xdas characterizes this as a magical sky over Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. A lot going on here, high and mid-level clouds with some embedded jet contrails. Photo courtesy of Lynn Xdas, Lake Geneva, Wisconsin

Lynn Xdas characterizes this as a magical sky over Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. A lot going on here, high and mid-level clouds with some embedded jet contrails. Photo courtesy of Lynn Xdas, Lake Geneva, Wisconsin

Mark Olmsted shares this Easter Sunday sunrise over the Rock River near Rockford. Photo courtesy of Mark Olmsted, Over the Rock River near Rockford

Mark Olmsted shares this Easter Sunday sunrise over the Rock River near Rockford. Photo courtesy of Mark Olmsted, Over the Rock River near Rockford

Scattered showers/thunderstorms in advance of cold front approaching from the west

Scattered clusters and short lines of showers and a few thunderstorms will occur over northern and central Illinois into southeastern Wisconsin and northwestern Indiana this evening. By late afternoon the cold front was moving out of eastern Iowa into northwestern Illinois, accompanied and preceded by the shows and thunderstorms.

Locally brief heavy downpours will be likely in some of the stronger thunderstorms along with the possibility of isolated small hail, gusty winds and lightning. Severe storms are not expected to develop.

The cold front will make its way east, probably reaching our western suburbs by mid-evening – passing through Chicago before or around midnight. Showers and thunderstorms will gradually end as the front passes a given point. Generally lighter rains will occur to the north and heavier rainfall – perhaps as much as an inch at some locations in central and southern sections.

Warmest Easter in nearly 3 decades

Chicago’s cool spring redeemed itself Sunday by delivering to the city its warmest Easter in nearly 30 years, matching the 79-degree high logged on March 30, 1986. Areas west and south of the city topped 80 and even lakeshore communities reached 70 before cooling afternoon lake breezes set in. Another round of 70s is expected Monday, but a gathering overcast leading to periods of showers and thunderstorms in the afternoon and evening will put a damper on the day. Cooler weather returns for Tuesday and Wednesday as Canadian high pressure moves in. More showers and thunderstorms are possible Thursday as another storm system approaches from the plains. The expected precipitation will be beneficial with the growing season moving into high gear, as Chicago area rainfall has been spotty this spring coming off a very snowy winter.

ASK TOM WHY: Was there a major snow storm on May 1 years ago?

Dear Tom,

My husband insists that there was a major snow storm on May 1st many years ago. Is he correct?

Thanks,
Phyllis Shugall
Morton Grove

Dear Phyllis,

It happened nearly 75 years ago, but your husband’s snowy memory is correct. The Chicago area received its heaviest May snow when 2.2 inches was fell on May 1-2, 1940 at the city’s official observation site on the University of Chicago campus. Following a balmy 73-degree high on April 30, temperatures plunged in the wake of a strong cold front. Rain began after midnight and changed to snow during the morning on May 1 and continued overnight finally ending the following afternoon. The snow forced the postponement of a game at Wrigley Field between the Cubs and Boston Bees. The snowfall was even heavier in other parts of the metro area with 3.7 inches at Midway Airport, 4.8 inches at Marengo and 5 inches at Elgin.