The "snow birds" are landing

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VENICE, Fla. - The combination of cold weather up north and nothing but sunshine here on the Suncoast could be helping the season of visitors start early this year. Having an impact on restaurants, roads, and wallets.

The birds are back. Snow birds that is. Who can blame them? "This is heaven. At home it is not so nice right now." Coming from Michigan Peggy Ellenwood says it was well below freezing back home Tuesday morning. In fact it's cold most places around the country other then the sunshine state. Peggy says she tries not to rub it in. "I have to be very careful about what I say to them. Especially on Facebook and showing them pictures. They get kind of angry."

Peggy isn't alone. At Sharky's on the pier in Venice the restaurant is packed with those who've flown south a little sooner. No snow here but plenty of white sand and frozen daiquiris going around says co-owner Justin Pachota. "We've seen a nice increase in business. It has happened a little bit earlier this year then typical years. It's been very nice."

Of course for us locals that means things take a little longer. "The wait does go up. You see the congestion on the roads."

It also means more money. "Rather then looking at it as kind of an inconvenience it's really the economy around here." Venice realtor Dan Heschmeyer with Gulf Coast realty Team says the market is more active this time of year then normal. Perhaps the cold weather up north helping to heat it up. "The last two weeks it's been very strong. In fact yesterday in our market 20 houses went under contract. For Venice that is really a hot market."

Maybe that nudge for some to say they need to go thaw out. Good early signs but the real busy season they believe is still to come. "Our full season is right around Valentines Day through Easter. It's really when we are at our busiest," says Pachota.

"It's going to be a strong season. There is no question about that," says Heschmeyer.

For now some like Peggy are lucky enough to have already landed. Tis' the season. "Just look around. This is paradise. It is absolutely wonderful."