DES MOINES, Iowa – No snow boots needed in Milwaukee. Chicago commuters aren't dodging knee-deep snow drifts frozen along city sidewalks. And children in Des Moines are settling for ice shavings dumped from a Zamboni.
Many cities in the Midwest haven't seen any decent snow this season — and some are even setting records for the number of days without it, in part because last winter was so mild and any precipitation that does fall gets soaked into the drought-parched land.
On Thursday, Des Moines matched a record set in 1889 when it hit its 277th consecutive day without measurable snowfall, according to the National Weather Service. Iowa's capital city is expecting clear skies Friday.
That may not sit well with local youngsters, according to ice skating rink manager Dave Roquet. He said that after he emptied the accumulated ice from his Zamboni recently in downtown Des Moines, a group of children ran straight for the man-made snow.
"The kids just went crazy for it," he laughed. "They saw it, and I think they hadn't seen snow in so long. They just started throwing snowballs at each other."
In Nebraska, Omaha recorded its 285th consecutive snowless day Wednesday — breaking its previous record set in 2006 — and Lincoln extended its new record on Thursday to 297 days without measureable snow. Lincoln's former record was 295 snow-free days in 2004.
Chicago and Milwaukee are just days away from breaking their records. Other areas also are either setting or close to records, while some cities are far off their usual snowfall totals.
But fear not, white Christmas dreamers: Snow is coming, at least for some people. Forecasters are calling for snow in parts of Nebraska and Iowa starting Saturday night and into Sunday, and possibly in Chicago the next day.
Florida-native Patricia Dryden admits she doesn't mind the whiteless weather at her home in suburban Des Moines.
"Two years ago there was a snowstorm," she said. "Now it's around 60 degrees. Selfishly, I'm happy."
National Weather Service program manager Jim Keeney said the country's drought conditions this year are to blame for snow not sticking to the ground.
"At this point it doesn't matter what falls from the sky, snow or rain," he said. "To get precipitation would be beneficial for a chunk of the country."
He also noted some cities that have seen snow are well below their averages this time of year.
Minneapolis usually has about 11 inches of snow on the ground by early December — but the measurement stands at less than an inch right now. Green Bay, Wis., is more than four inches off its normal snowfall.
Data shows Chicago will be just two days away Friday from breaking its 1994 record of 280 days without measurable snow. Milwaukee also will be two days away from breaking its 1999 record of 279 consecutive days without measurable snow, though there is a slight chance for snow Friday night.
Keeney said just a small portion of the country around Kentucky and Tennessee is expected to have above normal precipitation in the months ahead.
"We might all just expect more of the same," he said.