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If this is our summer, what will August bring?

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By Steve Doyle

The man calling the radio show said he was visiting Mount Hood in Oregon. It was 4:45 a.m. there, and he said the temperature was in the 50s.

He said the high on Monday was 85, but the heat index was 70, meaning wind chill was at play, as were snowboarders and skiers who ventured to the summit of the mountain, about 12,000 feet up.

I pause here to give you time to feel really, really jealous. It’s OK. This is a forgivable sin under our current sweat-sodden Gomorrah.

And now I follow that with a really steamy statement that I fear will send you into a dizzy tizzy: Sunday is the first day of August.

I don’t have to tell you that August for centuries has been the opening bell of the hottest, muggiest, “doggiest” days of summer.

It’s when Kentucky slips into a small simmer and tries not to boil before fall. It’s when the going gets hottest and heaviest.

But don’t you get the feeling that we should be leaving August rather than arriving?

Our weather certainly gives you the soaked sense that summer should sayonara. not just hitting the middle of its sometimes overpowering and indomitable stride.

I’m a guy who lived for decades in Florida. I’m not afraid of hot weather.

Summer in Florida starts about Derby Day, when Mother Nature sets her thermostat at 92 and leaves it there almost until Halloween.

The variation of highs is miniscule, and the only other consistency is the likelihood that in the afternoon, metal-gray clouds will arrive with a sometimes cooling, sometimes steam-inducing thunderstorms.

If you wanted to play golf or go to the beach, better get started by 8 a.m., or there would be rain on your parade.

The power of our Kentucky summer 2010 hit me about 9:30 the other night, when I took the dogs out to monitor their evening constitutional from our deck and standing almost stock still felt the cotton in my shirt immediately start to soften as it does before it plasters itself to your damp skin and the curdle of beads forming on the back of my neck.

Yes, I said 9:30 p.m.

Summer seems to have arrived so much earlier this year, closer to the first day of spring than the summer solstice in June.

The redbuds dabbed rouge on our horizons early, and the dogwoods provided their fragrant white blossoms as a backdrop for daffodils.

Dandelions quilted our yards in yellow patches and then white balls of fuzz when Thoroughbred season was peaking, and lightning bugs begin glittering through the night long before school was dismissed.

Day lilies have come and gone so quickly it was hard to enjoy their resplendent regeneration, and lawns seem to have struck that faint and weary sheen that usually greets the state fair.

And then there is our ultimate measurement: the thermometer.

The forecast was again for 93 on Tuesday, with the heat index at 100.

In fact, our highs have provided a streak of 90s that I haven’t seen since the days when I played golf regularly.

I’m afraid that in this case, though, the number has set a new par that is no less challenging but more easily attainable.

And though I am no reader of woolly worms or other such earthy forecasting devices, I carry in the back of my mind one fear that cools me even in the heat of the day:

What if our winter were to follow the same pattern?

What if it were to arrive earlier, last longer and bring with it the unwelcome guest list that includes record streaks of cold, snow and ice and record cabin fever?

I know that the belief in climate change – I avoid the term “global warming” because it is the igniter of insurrection – is a great societal debate that for reasons that elude me has formed along political more than meteorological lines.

I know that last winter, when it was cold, some were saying that meant there was not, sorry, global warming.

I’m sure somewhere there is someone today saying that, uh, we should think again about that.

But I will say this and lay it at the feet of nothing but my own experience:

Our weather patterns have changed significantly, and there must be a greater reason than my fraudulent Bachelor of Science would allow.

Trust Al Gore or not, when you wipe the sweat from your brow, you feel the heat of the conversation.

During my life I have lived only in the south, experiencing the tense humidity and sometimes triple-digit highs of Mississippi for 9 years before venturing to Florida.

I have traveled across our great nation at all times of the year, having endured the microwavish 107 degrees during a round of golf in Phoenix, the cutting, bitter gales of the first freezing day in Chicago, a chilly July evening in Maine and a swam in the Atlantic outside my door on New Year’s Eve in the southern Bahamas.

And, like the radio caller, I have been to Mount Hood in the summer.

There’s a lodge at the top, and above it stretches ski lifts to take up those who favor summer shushing for their sun-baked runs..

Walking behind the lodge one night during the first days of summer more than 20 years ago, I reached down and scooped up a handful of snow and threw a perfect slider at a buddy from Tampa.

I figured a snowball fight the first week of summer is quite a wonderful treat.

Wouldn’t you like to have one about now?