Hot In Wisconsin

by Helene Phelps
| July 12, 2017
sprinkler

Robert Hiscock

Download audio

It’s hot in Wisconsin. Really hot. Temps in the 90’s. ‘Real feel’ heat index, say the meteorologists, is plus a dozen digits more. That’s because, here in Wisconsin, it’s also really-really humid. What would you say? 90%? 100? Sticky drips roll down foreheads, necks and spines. Panting pups and lifeless cows lie still as stones. We trudge slowly through the peak of summer, squinting from the bright glare of sunlight and the flash of anything metal that we happen by. Humid.

The storms come almost every night. Big ones. Electrical light shows firing the sky like a million tinsel arrows. Thunder clapping directly over our heads and houses, appreciative of the release from water logged cloud cover. Enough rain to close highways and wash out bridges, destroy corn crops and find folks weeping in flooded basements. Power down. Trees too.  We are free from drought. The forecast is more than a slight chance of the ‘same tomorrow’. 

Yes… It’s hot in Wisconsin. And if you think we’re complaining, you’re absolutely right. 

True. We complain. But we also tough it out. Especially those of us without air conditioning. We check on our neighbors and draw the curtains down tight come daylight. We spend hours cooling off at the public library and next to the open cases in the grocers produce section. We drink water and eat sandwiches, leaving the stove to gather dew drops. We watch the grass grow faster than our own feet can carry us. We actually long for winter.

And we wait for cool breezes.

In Wisconsin, we nod in agreement that ‘hot’ here is different than ‘hot’ in Southern California or Arizona deserts. When temperatures climb to 90 degrees and higher in Wisconsin, we feel as sticky as spilled lemonade when the confluence of high temps and too much mugginess converge. Only we really do feel stickier than other states when the confluence of high temps and too much mugginess converge.

There are tricks for cooling down when the mercury climbs and the dew point makes for dangerous, slick traveling on the linoleum floors. Tricks our Mothers pulled out of the ice chest long before A/C was an acronym. Stretched out on cotton sheets, four or more cold, wet-wrung wash cloths were gently placed on small bodies. We shivered with the first touch of terrycloth -- and then we settled into deep, restless summer sleep.

Foggy dreams and listless limbs we did not move an inch until the bird song of a new too-warm morning pulled us awake. Electricity saved the day if you had a fan and a bowl of ice cubes to set in the blade’s spinning pathway. Physics at its finest. And its coolest. Hoses and sprinklers, neighborhood ponds and woodland streams cooled our feet and bellies.           

We ate cherry popsicles.

Then, out of the blue, the Fahrenheit shifts downward, the haze slowly evaporates along with the relative humidity.  The pavement no longer sizzles. There is an emotional shift with the lift.  A lighter step and a belief that our day-to-day lives will return to normal.  The extended outlook brighter -- on all accounts.

But today the cirrus cloud cover promises more rain.  The temperature climbs like a bottle rocket.  The afternoon stillness forces the dew point higher by the minute.  It’s hot in Wisconsin.

I think we should all go jump in the lake.

Tags: weather / summer / hot weather / lakes / temperatures

Helene Phelps recently retired from Wisconsin Public Television and now lives in the far northwestern corner of our fair (and sometimes very cold) state.