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updated: 3/20/2013 1:53 PM

Last March 20, it was about 60 degrees warmer

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  • March temperatures

    Graphic: March temperatures

  • Deb Short took advantage of temperatures in the 80s to take a stroll in downtown Barrington in March 2012.

       Deb Short took advantage of temperatures in the 80s to take a stroll in downtown Barrington in March 2012.
    Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

  • This month's snow, shoveled by John Baer of Elgin, is a far cry from temperatures that topped out at 87 degrees in March 2012.

       This month's snow, shoveled by John Baer of Elgin, is a far cry from temperatures that topped out at 87 degrees in March 2012.
    Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

 
 

On this date last year, it was 85 degrees outside. And 87 degrees the day after that.

For nearly two weeks in March, people used their air conditioners.

But as anyone who's walked outside knows, March 2012 and March 2013 are nothing alike.

This winter began with above-average warmth and no snow, but the last two months have been cold, gray, snowy and wet.

Today -- the first day of spring -- the mercury is expected to reach only the mid-20s, with gusty winds and below-zero wind chills.

Temperatures this month are averaging 4 degrees below normal -- unseasonably cold for March in Chicago -- compared to temperatures that were 5 degrees above normal at the start of the season, said AccuWeather.com meteorologist Tom Kines.

"This month has just been horrible," Kines said. "It's been one long cold spell the whole month. And if we hadn't had that stretch from March 8 to 11, when temperatures were actually above normal, (the numbers) would be much worse."

Warm and cold spells are common this time of year, but it's stayed cold because the jet stream has consistently stayed south of Chicago, Kines said. That leaves us on the north side of it, where the cold air is.

"March and April can be kind of cruel months. It's the time of year when warm air is making its way northward, but Old Man Winter isn't getting ready to give up yet. So it's a battle," he said.

The consistently colder weather will mean higher home heating bills. It's a combination of the weather and higher "therm prices," NICOR spokesman Duane Bourne said. "Folks will be paying about $7.25 more this March compared to last March," Bourne said.

Among those eager for winter to end is Ed Braden, owner of Atlas Heating Service Inc., a heating and air conditioning business in Morton Grove. He said his company is busiest during the year's first cold spell and first warm spell, when people turn on their air conditioners for the first time.

"We were selling and serving air conditioner units at this time last year. We haven't sold any this year," he said. "People are tired of this cold weather."

The cold and snow pattern isn't expected to break anytime soon. Wintry weather is forecast through the end of the month.

"If you're looking for temps in the 70s, hop on a plane and head south," Kines said.

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