Sunday, October 30, 2016

Indian Summer

According to Wikipedia, the definition of Indian summer is a period of unseasonably warm, dry weather that sometimes occurs in autumn in the Northern Hemisphere. The US National Weather Service defines this as weather conditions that are sunny and clear with above normal temperatures, occurring late-September to mid-November. It is usually described as occurring after a killing frost.

So what happened to the killing frost? We had some cooler weather near the end of the South Carolina State Fair a couple of weeks ago but no killing frost. Since then it has warmed up again and we are looking at a high of 86 degrees today. Really, Mother Nature, 86 degrees! What’s up with that? The record high for today is 84 set in 1998. It’s been a long hot summer and I’m ready for fall. I’ve even seen pictures of snow this fall out west and up north. So Mama N, quit fooling around and bring on the fall weather.

I know I’m risking bringing on an early and hard winter asking for the end of Indian summer but most of the weather sources say we will have a mild onset to winter. I am not asking for blizzards and most certainly not asking for ice, but cooler weather would be nice.

Growing up in Florida, I used to think that 45 degrees was really, really cold, the kind of weather where we would bundle up in scarves, hats, gloves and our thickest coats. If it were cold enough to see your breath, then it was best that you stayed inside. I must admit that my blood has thickened a bit living in South Carolina and I will even go to the street to get my morning paper from the tube on the mailbox post in my shirtsleeves with temperatures in the upper teens. But I would be running both ways to do that.

Thank goodness for central heat. My home in Jacksonville sported a single kerosene heater in the hallway nearest the living room. My bedroom was at the other end of the hallway so there were lots of blankets to keep us warm at night. We did not use the heater at night because of the slight risk of a fire. One of us, usually me, had the responsibility to get up before anyone else and grab a match from the kitchen and a scrap of yesterday’s newspaper from the living room, opening the door to the barrel shaped heat chamber, turning on the kerosene, lighting the paper and throwing it in. Usually I was rewarded by seeing a flicker of flame. I would close the door and make sure that the furnace was still burning by looking through the glass insert in the door. If all that didn’t happen, I would turn off the kerosene, wait a minute and go through the process all over again. By time that heater warmed up, I was wide awake.

My brother and I had our assigned spaces on either side of the furnace in which we would get dressed for the day. Then it was off to the kitchen while my sister took her turn by the heater. Mom and Dad, being the hardy folks they were, dressed in their room. All of this is a far cry from lying in bed today until the timer on the thermostat clicked and the gas furnace central heat warmed up the house.

Left: You can see the breaker I'm talking about below! There is a running joke about how did we ever live in the south without air conditioning. I think the winter analog is also true; how did we live through winters without central heating? Being an engineer by training, there is one huge downside to all of this modern heating technology. I sometimes lie awake and worry about what could go wrong. Power outages are the biggest problem that sometimes shakes us out of our comfortable routine. Especially concerning are power outages that are caused by ice storms. Our house is in sort of a power cul-de-sac. There is a sensitive breaker on a power pole in the parking lot of a nearby shopping center that feeds the high voltage line in our neighborhood circuit. Because there are only 30 – 40 homes on the circuit it usually has a low priority for repair. So it can take days for the power company to get to it. So the homes across the street usually have power back days before we do. It is so sad to watch the trucks with the cherry pickers on them drive past that pole with the breaker hanging down taunting us.

I don’t want to get cocky, but this summer the power company came through the neighborhood trimming the trees in their right of way to cut down on ice induced power outages. It has been a decade or more since they have done that. They even trimmed the big magnolia tree in my back yard that surrounded the individual line to the house. So I’m hopeful that we will not have the problems that we have had in the past. (Knock on wood!)

So, Mother Nature, here is my request for this winter. Please bring cool, not cold weather along with one or two light fluffy snow showers. You know the kind, ones that don’t interrupt the power and cover the yard with a light powder and leave the streets drivable. That would be nice! Otherwise, the normal southern winter with sunny, clear skies and temperatures from the 20’s to the 50’s would be just fine. Thank you! By the way if one of those snow showers could come at Christmas, that would be awesome. I have never seen a White Christmas. Oh MY!

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