A Simmering Summer of Scorching Sizzle


In a way, we are all numerologists. You see whether we play the lottery, buy groceries at the store or are lining the streets of Olive Hill for Saturday’s big parade, we are all number counters at heart. The only numbers a Powerball player cares about are those on his or her “winning” ticket on the road to millionaire-dom. At the check out line at Food Fair or the Kroger, we all double check that we have not been overcharged. This Saturday in Olive Hill, I will be counting how many hundreds of people attend the parade (starts at 1 PM at the Middle School). My early guess is 20 hundred! I also hope to play soccer with the West Raiders girls team as I did a few years ago when I traveled to the parade to honor Hop Brown with a Hometown Hero award!

That said, in this summer of heat and drought, the daily count of 90 degree days is underway. Today’s 94 degrees in Charleston and 91 in Huntington represented the 10th and 7th time respectively that these 2 cities have made it to 90 degrees. With Wednesday’s sure fire high set to exceed 90, those numbers will increase to 11 and 8 respectively. There is a 50-50 chance that Thursday’s soaking thunderstorms hold off in time for still another magical 90 day.

Now comes the fun part of number counting and mathematical inference. Last summer was a scorcher with roughly 30 days matching the 90 mark. Keep in mind in a “normal” summer, we have 15 ninety days. Last summer, we did not get to the 11th day of 90 heat until July 14th (July 20th for Charleston), so we are running a solid 2-3 weeks ahead of 2006’s sultry pace.

Even more impressively, during the last full scale drought summer of 1999, a season long heat wave scorched our area with more than 40 days in the nineties. That summer, day number 11 in the 90s did not come until June 28.

In 1999, crops failed, cattle were sold off early when farmers had no hay to feed the steers and water restrictions were the norm across Appalachia. I traveled the parched trails on the county fair circuit that summer from Holzer Hospital in Gallipolis to Milton to Grayson with a cold lemonade in one hand and a dusty reporters notebook in the other. Already this summer, we have similar concerns over the drought and heat. (The fair season starts in 2 weeks in Lawrence County Ohio and continues thru August).

By week’s end, a Canadian cold front will be swooping in from the northlands to break the current hot spell. Our supercomputers suggest we will get several soaking downpours with as much rain in 2 days as we have accumulated in the past 2 months. If that happens, our crops will get a much needed drink of water in order to withstand the heat of the Dog Days of July and August that is ahead. If however, those soaking downpours turn to run of the mill garden variety showers, then look for the air to turn blazingly hot as in 100 degrees by Yankee Doodle Day on July 4th.

In May I predicted 30 days of ninety degree heat this summer. Then last week, I upped that number to 40 as I compared 2007 to 1999. Of course, the mother of all droughts and heat waves dates back to my first summer here in 1988 when the temperature hit 90 on 50 different days with 7 days, count’em 7, making it to the mercurial century mark (100). For the sake of those who suffer in the heat, let’s hope this week’s rains finally put a cooling dent in the drought.

One thing for sure, the air will turn decided cooler and refreshing this weekend, when THAT SEVENTIES SHOW will be a more apropos title to tonight’s blog!

One final word, on a globally warmed planet, the number of 90 days would naturally increase dramatically for most summers. That’s not to say global warming is responsible for any one season’s weather, but it is to say that blistering summers like 1988 and 1999 will be more likely as the 21st century unfolds on a globally warmed planet.

For my thoughts on global warming, I include a blog I wrote back in April as food for thought. www.wsaz.com/tonysblog/headlines/6912012.html

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