When I arrived in Bloomington, people were already complaining about the heat. “You must have brought this heat up with you from New Orleans,” they joked.
I wondered what they were talking about, because as far as I could tell the weather was pretty nice. If anything I found it a little chilly, especially in the mornings. By midday it was pretty comfortable. The sun was pretty intense, and not much cloud cover. In fact I got a little sunburnt just about every day.
What I noticed most of all was that the air was so much drier than what I’m used to in New Orleans. I mentioned this to a friend who’d just arrived from Montana. (No, it wasn’t J, it was Ben Murphy — despite what you may think there are more than two people who live in the state of Montana.) He guffawed, because he found Indiana downright humid. So you see, it’s all truly relative.
But all this took place before the Great Midwestern Heat Wave of 2012 began. It started to ramp up on the day I visited my sister and her family. When I returned to Bloomington it was in full effect. Temperatures soared into the 100s. I checked the paper daily (more on daily papers later, meanwhile see Nola Anarcha’s must-read series) and noted that the high in New Orleans was a good ten degrees cooler.
And it was dry. So dry. It hadn’t rained in a month. My mom, who grew up on a farm and thus has some empathy for farmers, said the corn crop in Indiana was ruined. Today I read it’s the harshest drought in half a century.
That Friday afternoon, June 29, I rode my borrowed bike across town, maybe twenty minutes, just before 5PM, to meet a friend for cocktails. That was a mistake. I’m used to riding around New Orleans in some heat, but this was something else again. When I arrived at my destination it took a good thirty minutes for the sweat to stop pouring out of my body.
Easy to get dehydrated under those circumstances. I took a water bottle with me everywhere and drank a tremendous amount of water.
Given all the hype about climate change, it’s hard not to jump to conclusions. I know it’s a hasty generalization, but I can’t help wondering where we might be in a hundred years. Will New Orleans be under water, and the Midwest a desert? Fallacious logic, perhaps, but one can’t help speculating. Especially in light of those guys at Stanford who say we’ll have permanently hotter summers in a couple decades.
The following week was amazing, and not just because of the heat. I’ll fill in the details later. For now I just want to note that I was relieved to head back south to cooler climes. Never thought I’d say that. When we got back home, New Orleans had just received a good drenching, and the temperature was in the lower 70s. At 4PM in July? That’s just weird. Since then it’s rained almost every day and I’m seeing fairy rings everywhere.
As I write this now, it’s 85ºF in New Orleans with 48% humidity. Frankly that’s bone-dry for us. In Bloomington it’s 99ºF with 16% humidity.
And the drought goes on…