August 3, 2012

Everything is Relative!

Schricker,-Mary-Dec2010By Mary Schricker Gemberling

Our lawn is brown and brittle; my garden plants puny and wilted; the pond seven feet shallow and the heat oppressive! I find myself, in the middle of July, wishing for the chilly feel of autumn and the briskness of winter!!!

“Mercury soars to 104 F; Farm outlook dismal. No relief is in sight from the weather bureau that promises continued hot weather for tonight and tomorrow…………………………”
– New York Daily Journal, July 9, 1936

Yes, that’s right 1936! The country was in the middle of The Great Depression and at the tail end of the historic Dust Bowl. The heat wave started in late June, when temperatures across the U.S. exceeded 100 degrees. Drought conditions worsened. Reports told of soil temperature readings in excess of 200 degrees, curtailing the ability for new life to grow. July was the peak month. Chicago Midway airport recorded 100 degree temperatures for 12 consecutive days. Later that month in downstate Mt. Vernon, Illinois, temperatures surpassed 100 degrees for 18 days running. On August 18, Iowa had its hottest ever August day, with the average high temperature for 113 reporting stations of 106.5 degrees. Twenty six states recorded their highest one day temperatures. With the invention of air conditioning in its infancy, many people suffered from heat stroke and exhaustion. As many as 5,000 heat-related deaths were reported in the United States.

Flash forward 76 years to June 2012! There were 164 high temps that were tied or broken in the U.S. On the 4th of July, there were 262 daily high records that were tied or broken across our country. Eighty two heat-related deaths have been reported. An additional 22 lives lost in severe thunderstorms that swept across the Midwest in June of this year. St. Louis spent 10 days straight over 100 degrees, almost breaking the 13-day stretch of 100s in 1936. The waters of Lake Michigan are reported to exceed 80 degrees this summer.

We have yet to realize in the coming months, the catastrophic results of the record breaking heat and drought conditions. Some have already lost loved ones to heat related deaths, and other deaths are still to come. Farms and farmers will suffer. Fish kill in streams, rivers and lakes will take years to replenish. And at the very least for all of us, withering crops and dying livestock will mean higher food prices for many months to come.

In the greater scheme of things, my brown lawn, wilting flowers, and the oppressive heat are a mere inconvenience! Everything is relative!

Mary Schricker Gemberling, former educator and Seniors Real Estates Specialist is the author of two books, The West End Kid and Labor of Love; a Personal Journey Through the World of Caregiving.