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Snowbirds Heading North from Florida

April 11, 2011 by   - () Leave a Comment

Bob Poulin is pulling out.

On Friday (April 8), like the rest of the 20,000 or so snowbirds who winter in Highlands County, Fla., Poulin was cleaning the barbeque grill, getting ready to close his fifth-wheel trailer for the summer, the Highlands Today reported.

He’s been here since November, so he plans to be back in Windsor, Ontario, on Good Friday, so that he can spend Easter with his family.

At Reflections on Silver Lake, the 590-unit mobile home and RV park across US 27 from South Florida Community College, reservations clerk Jerri Barker said residents began notifying her of their check-out date late in February.

She looked at her books. “There are about 200 leaving,” she said.

So far. Only 125 stay the entire year, she said.

Some delayed this year, Barker said, because of the thunderstorms that breezed through Highlands County. Other northeasterners watched the surprise early April snowstorm from here, grateful that they’d chosen to stay a little longer.

“They want to get back to their families,” Barker said.

It’s always apparent to Highlands County residents when snowbirds have flown north, because U.S. 27 is quieter and the restaurants aren’t full.

After Tax Day, says County Engineer Ramon Gavarrete.

“Traffic counts usually decline from 5% to 15%,” he said. That means on Schumacher Road, for instance, peak hour traffic may drop from 580 vehicles to 505-551 cars.

At Dot’s, a café in the breezeway between Winn Dixie and Homer’s, traffic has also declined.

“They are leaving every day, another one tells me, another one tells me,” said Dot Rankin. “I’d say we’re more than half down already.”

The good news, for her, is that her summer regulars – the folks who live in Highlands County but avoid Dot’s because it’s crowded – start coming back.

As for Poulin, he originally came to Highlands because his Windsor and Michigan friends were coming here, both for the weather and to play ball.

“We play senior softball all winter, almost every day,” said Poulin. “I play in Lake Placid and Sebring, and there’s also a travel team.”

He lives here almost five months a year, which is about as long as Canadians are permitted in the U.S. without special visas.

There are no official snowbird counts, but Barker said Reflections was full this year, and the reservation list is almost full next year.

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