Constable: Days of 'gentle rain' and 'sun-kissed' now 'monsoon' and 'drought'

  • This message appeared outside a church in Florida a few years back, but it captures the sentiment in the suburbs, where we've gone from watering scorched lawns to draining flooded basements.

    This message appeared outside a church in Florida a few years back, but it captures the sentiment in the suburbs, where we've gone from watering scorched lawns to draining flooded basements. Associated Press file photo

  • Within the month of June we've gone from blazing heat, to a devastating tornado to flooding rains.

    Within the month of June we've gone from blazing heat, to a devastating tornado to flooding rains. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

 
 
Posted6/29/2021 5:10 AM

If you were among the many suburbanites who prayed for rain to help our brown yards, wilted trees and scorched gardens, your work is done. And people with soggy basements would like to have a word with you.

Our June monsoon turned arid wastelands into rice paddies. Mowers, which sat idle for weeks, now need floaties to move around backyards. For a month nicely nestled in the middle of our calendars, June gave us some extremes.

 

Remember that day you turned on the heat and the air conditioner? Or when the temperature finally got to a point where you could open the windows -- and discovered that made it easier to hear the tornado sirens? After more than a year of being cooped up inside avoiding the virus, you made plans for a backyard gathering, only to have a downpour force everyone to cram into the kitchen.

The pleasures of a "gentle rain" and "sun-kissed" afternoons used to inspire poets such as Emily Dickinson, who wrote lovely works such as "Summer Shower" and "I'll tell you how the Sun rose."

Hundreds of musicians also have been inspired by raindrops and sunbeams, from Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Have You Ever Seen The Rain?" to The Beatles' "Here Comes the Sun."

When was the last time we enjoyed a rain or a sunny day that arrived with an easygoing attitude? The weekend rain that visited the suburbs barged into our space without warning and proved to be an overindulgent, brash, even rude guest. Recent kisses from the sun seem more like an unwanted assault.

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But one comforting thing about our Midwest weather is our extremes generally don't last that long. We might think we remember rainy spells that threatened the biblical forecast of 40 days and 40 nights, but we've never come close.

Chicago's record for consecutive days with at least a tenth of an inch of rain is just 11 days.

That happened in 1880, from Aug. 24 through Sept. 3, and again in 1949, from May 15 to May 25. And neither of those stretches produced even a day worthy of Noah's ark.

The 1880 stretch produced just 3.62 inches of gentle rain, never delivering as much as an inch in a single day.

The 1949 streak gave us one day of 1.5 inches or rain but produced a total accumulation of only 2.25 inches.

If we lower our standards to a trace of precipitation that includes snow, the winter of 2019 gave us 34 straight days with something wet falling from the heavens.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

That streak started Jan. 12 with 2.2 inches of snow and ended Feb. 14 with a trace of rain.

"Over the last century, precipitation trends in the Midwest have been moving toward wetter conditions and fewer droughts than the region experienced in the early 20th century. However, the Midwest has still felt adverse impacts during recent droughts, particularly in 1988 and 2012," according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Integrated Drought Information System's drought.gov website.

"An added challenge in recent years has been the tendency to transition from drought to flood and back to drought within short time spans, sometimes within a matter of months."

Or weeks. Or days. Or hours. It would be nice if our weather would just mellow out a bit, and stop all the deadly heat and tornadoes, and ease off those annoying downpours, hail and floods.

If not for us, our yards and our basements, then for all those poets and songwriters in need of inspiration.

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