The Suburbanite
  • STEVE KING: 'When it rains … '

  • Recent flooding is a stark contrast to the weather of 1988.

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  • Where were you 25 years ago today, in 1988?
    If you were in The Suburbanite’s coverage area – or for that matter, in any part of Ohio or the Midwest – then you were sweating.
    You had been sweating for several months, in fact, and you would continue to do so for almost two months more.
    Plus you would be begging – pleading, praying and hoping – for rain. If there were a rain dance that was believed to have any chance of working, then you were dancing up a storm to that tune.
    Dry and hot. Hot and dry. Sizzling hot and bone dry – and we do mean bone dry.
    Indeed, the summer of 1988 is one we all wanted to forget, but it is also one we will always remember.
    It was the summer of the great drought – most say a 100-year drought – and a great heat wave to go with it.
    Great isn’t a word we should throw around casually. It was “great.” As in: miserable, scary, devasting, destructive, demoralizing and defining. It was something none of us had never experienced before, and never want to experience again.
    It didn’t rain from spring through the first part of fall.
    OK, there were quick showers here and there in isolated spots, but nothing to amount to anything. And in most places, it didn’t rain at all.
    Not a drop.
    That sounds like a gross exaggeration, like the fisherman who snags a three-pounder and then brags years later that it was a 23-pounder. Those of us who lived through it wish that were the case, but this is no exaggeration. It simply didn’t rain – really, honestly, frighteningly.
    At first, the nice, clear and unseasonably mild weather in April and May allowed us to quickly get caught up on our yard work from the winter and to get our gardens in and flowers planted.
    The early summer didn’t bother any of us. We were just happy to be able to get outside.
    And we knew – we thought we knew, that is – things would eventually level off and Mother Nature would right herself, getting back to providing normal rainfall and normal temperatures.
    But it didn’t happen, and by about mid-June, when we kept experiencing Goundhog Day weather with day after day of dry and hot conditions with absolutely no end in sight, we had become very concerned. Everything was wilting, including us.
    People were scrambling to keep their landscape alive, watering and watering and watering. Finally, we had to let go of our lawns, which had lost all their green color and instead turned brown or orange or some other deathly, dormant tone. The experts told us that grass is hardy and would come back once it started raining again and cooled off, and for the most part, they were right. The positive was that we didn’t have to spend all that time mowing, but no one was really celebrating.
    Page 2 of 2 - Shrubs, annuals and perennials wouldn’t be so lucky, though. They would die without water, so we made sure they got it – plenty of it, in fact, because they were parched. We became one with our garden hoses and hoped and prayed some more.
    Golf course owners tapped every irrigation source they had to keep their layouts at least somewhat playable, and their businesses from going out of business.
    The septic system at our house went bad on Easter evening in mid-April. We put in a new one and figured we’d have our lawn replanted by Memorial Day. We got the ground ready and waited for the weatherman to predict rain so we could spread the seed.
    We finally planted grass on Oct. 14.
    But as is the case with every severe weather condition, one man’s nightmare is another man’s dream. In this instance, the people running public swimming pools were thrilled. Every day was standing-room only as people looked for a way to get wet and beat the heat. It was a financial windfall the likes of which many of these pool owners had never seen.
    The popular movie, Field of Dreams, was filmed in the summer of 1988 in tiny Dyersville, Iowa. The filmmakers picked two farms simply because they looked typically Midwestern. They were not immediately aware that a stream ran through them, but when the rain didn’t come, they tapped the stream for irrigation, allowing their corn to thrive while that on nearby farms wilted. It enabled them to continue filming there. Without it, they would have had to come up with an alternative plan.
    The dry, hot weather is also why the actors and actresses in the movie, such as stars Kevin Costner and James Earl Jones, were openly perspiring in nearly every scene.
    Now, a quarter-century later, things are as different as they can be. We’ve had record-setting amounts of rain this summer in the local area, causing flooding.
    What we wouldn’t have done for some of that water in 1988.

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