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No Snow Chicago: Windy City Having Non-White Winter for First Time in Nearly 150 Years

Chicago is hot right now.

Not just because the president of the United States mentions the city every day or because the beloved Cubs won the world series last fall but — for the first time in 146 years — Chicago is going through a snow drought with not a flake at all in the months of January and February

It's especially notable in a city known for its brutal winters.

Chicago averages over 40 inches of snow per winter and the city always preps and for months revving up "a fleet" of snow plows and salt trucks to service over "280 snow routes," according to the city's website.

So the last two months have thrown Windy City residents for a loop, with temperatures hitting spring-like highs — without a lick of snow.

Chicago Records No Significant Snowfall in January, February 0:44

"Forecasts predicted a bad winter so I got the thickest, warmest coat I could find. But honestly I've only used it a few days this winter," said Chicago resident Ella Cole. "I'll guess I'll save it for next year."

Related: Chicago Area's Wild Weather Week Continues

The unseasonably warm temperatures came as an unexpected blessing for several area businesses who normally see a financial slump this time of year.

"It has been amazing," said Ed Rasmussen, who manages the Robert Black Golf Course in Chicago. Winter normally brings a handful of golfers each day, but this year "we had record revenue days that were even better than summer weekends," he said.

Other summer traditions also got a head start.

Related: Northeast to Feel Cold Front Push in After Record Heat, Strong Storms

Linna's Italian Ice occupies a small corner on city's west side and owner Sam Kariekan says he opened for business months earlier than expected. "I usually start shop for the season around late March, but this year I opened in February because I know people are out and about," he said.

The last measurable day of snow came on Christmas Day, according to the National Weather Service. And the city hasn't looked back since with foot traffic filling in normally sparse public spaces.

"We had record February attendance in our 83-year history," said Sondra Katzen, a spokesperson for the Brookfield Zoo. The Zoo usually gets around 20,000 guests in February, but this year hit over 100,000, she said.

Image: Chicago Zoo
People at the Chicago Zoo on Feb. 19, 2017. Jim Schulz via Chicago Zoological Society

Most of the foot traffic came through during a six-day stretch of temperatures above 65 degrees.

But it hasn't been as sunny for other Chicagoans who have come to rely on the snow for their bills.

Trimaine Wilson, 31, who owns Trimaine Snow Plowing, said the warm season has hit his business hard.

"It's been rough, we've had bills to pay with no work," he said, adding that his company lost close to $75,000 due to the unseasonable weather. "We had some people pre-pay for the winter so we've been using that to maintain and stay open," he said.

Related: Deadly Winter Storm Drops a Foot of Snow in Midwest

Retail stores that stocked up on shovels, salt, and snow blowers were left with an excess of inventory rather than profits.

"Many people didn't buy things they would usually need in the snow and those who bought early didn't use what they bought so they won't come back next year for it," said Alan Gillman, owner of Gillman Ace Hardware.

With residents opting for fun in the sun, several area ski lodges also had no choice but to close early for the season.

Four Lakes Ski and Snowboard Area, just outside of the city, was one of them. The company's website read: "UNFORTUNATELY DUE TO THE UNSEASONABLY WARM TEMPERATURES THE AREA IS IS NOW CLOSED FOR THE SEASON."

"If there is no snow in our backyard, there's no one coming," said Chris Buehler, director of operations at Four Lakes. "This is the earliest we've ever closed in our memory," he said.

Four Lakes employs up to 350 people who were impacted in some capacity over the closure, Buehler said. But the resort is planning on starting early summer programs to start recouping lost time.

Deadly winter storm drops a foot of snow in the Midwest 2:23

Weather is also a contributing factor to a rise in crime and violence, says Arthur Lurigio, a criminology professor at Loyola University in Chicago.

In a city already crippled by violence, January and February had 35 more shooting victims than the same period last year, according to data compiled by the Chicago Tribune.

"As the weather gets warmer more people are outside, which gives more occasion for arguments and altercations," Lurgio said.

While chances of snowfall decrease after this point, "March and even April are far from immune from crippling snow storms," said the National Weather Service on its Facebook page.

"It's still a early to write off the 2016-17 snow season."