The northern Plains’ wheat crops rely on snow cover to protect them from cold air during their dormant winter months, say forecasters, who warn of possible higher prices because of the odd weather. Fruit trees tricked into blossoming early and then hit by a frost could be damaged. Rodents who normally hunker down for the winter are out and about, making for unusual encounters like the one Pastelok had with the skunk outside State College, Pa.

For people who depend upon well water, the lack of snowmelt is a problem. And, Pastelok said, “we could be looking at an abnormally buggy spring” because the icy temperatures that normally drive away insects haven’t materialized.

Few have suffered the warmish winter as badly as small ski areas such as Whaleback Mountain in New Hampshire, where Frank Sparrow, one of the owners, made no attempt to conceal his disappointment over the season.

“It’s the worst I can remember in 30 years,” he said in a telephone interview. “Even if we had snow for the rest of the season, we could never recover.”