Sunday, Apr 22, 2018
One of America's Great Newspapers ~ Toledo, Ohio

Marilou Johanek


June didn't do itself any justice

June ends today and I want a do-over. The month between May and July always slips by too fast. Before anyone notices, summer is minus a month.

But June, 2011, is one for the books. Actually, if you've been paying attention, this whole year has been one for the books with Mother Nature. The unpredictable wench has confounded humans more than usual with her crazy mood swings.

Extremes have become the new normal in weather, from flooding to droughts to tornadoes to record rain. The conditions are breaking new ground all over meteorological maps with such frequency that even the most cloistered computer slave knows what's happening outside the office isn't business as usual.

Newsweek treated the bizarre patterns with a May 29 cover page that screamed "Weather Panic" and ominously declared that "we're hopelessly unprepared" for what lies ahead. The article suggests that atmospheric convulsions around the planet illustrate a lesson with "terrifying certainty" that "the stable climate of the last 12,000 years is gone" -- and we ain't seen nothing yet.

No doubt the doomsday crowd sees apocalyptic writing on the wall. When it's pouring buckets one minute, sunny the next, and unseasonably hot and cold in the same dawn to dusk period, the end of time must be nigh.

Well, before you do anything rash, as Aaron Neville sang, ask a born-and-bred Midwesterner about fickle, undependable weather. We grew up with record highs, lows, precipitation, and snowfall.

We joke about climate change being an hourly occurrence here. If the weather doesn't fluctuate wildly without warning, you're living in California, not Ohio.

At least the abrupt changes keep it interesting -- and always a challenge. Working with, around, and in spite of the capricious elements that conspire to rain/snow/hail on our parade in baking/frigid temperatures is what we do.

Sometimes, Buckeye skies hold surprises that go beyond spoiling outdoor plans and testing our patience big time. Take this spring, for example. When the National Weather Service began an Ohio forecast with "chance of showers and thunderstorms" people would roll their eyes at the "chance" part.

One observer wrote: "Around these parts lately, that's like saying there's a chance of gravity." The super-soaking of spring 2011 broke 100-year-old records in some areas of the state.

Northwest Ohio was the wettest region in May with 8.08 inches of rain -- 4.59 inches above normal. But the handful of days it wasn't raining on Ohioans anywhere in March, April, and May, there often was cloud cover.

By the end of a soggy spring, swollen rivers were raging, farm fields were unplowed, and tolerance levels with stormy weather were at rock bottom. Ohio farmers, planting between downpours, cursed the saturated soil that threatened everything.

Crops that are supposed to be knee-high by the Fourth of July could be at the short end of the growth chart, and crop yields may not measure up either. June was supposed to be a respite from the Midwest monsoons but it arrived acting like August.

We went from waterlogged to a heat wave overnight. The mercury climbed into the upper 90s, when the normal high should have been about 80, breaking previous temperature records in a smattering of sweltering sections of the state.

Apparently global warming is more punishing than anyone knew.

A pair of Stanford scientists, analyzing global climate computer models, recently concluded that by mid-century, large areas of the world will face unprecedented heat.

While we were sweating that news and stewing in the stifling humidity, the rain returned. The perpetual damp created multitudes of mosquitoes, toads, and creepy insects drawn to standing puddles.

This first full week of summer, the clouds finally parted. The oppressive mugginess lifted. Dry made a return appearance. Kids remembered what it was like to play outside, and adults remembered what it was like to sit on patio furniture that wasn't wet.

Now, June is gone before we can appreciate it. After a snowy winter and squishy spring, summer-hungry Ohioans are again shortchanged by a month that could have been more.

Perhaps a do-over is too much to ask for in the fleeting interlude between May and July, but anything to extend the too-brief flip-flop and suntan season is worth a try.

Heck, for a few more carefree Jimmy Buffett days and fewer John Boehner waterworks, I'd settle for a raincheck.

Marilou Johanek is a Blade commentary writer.

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