Heat wave history: 2012 not the worst, yet

By: Joe Nelson Email
By: Joe Nelson Email

EAU CLAIRE / CHIPPEWA FALLS, Wisc. (WEAU) - Temperatures reached the 90s again Tuesday and farmers are still waiting for rain as crops continue to dry up.

Despite seeing record heat and a drought, historians said things aren't like they used to be.

Frank Smoot with the Chippewa Valley Museum said this weather doesn't yet compare to the drought of 1936.

"It wasn't just uncomfortable, people were suffering, animals were dying," Smoot said. "People were canning weeds because they were worried they wouldn't have anything to eat in the winter. Those were hard times."

"We were much less prepared back then. Having good water in people's homes was not common. Cows are more comfortable and people are too. As we set records, we're better prepared to handle them."

According to the National Climatic Data Center, Wisconsin had a record low precipitation in July of 1936 at 1.03 inches, about 3 inches below average. Total precipitation from July 1 to July 16 was .86 inches.

But longtime farmer Allard Peck of Chippewa Falls said in many ways, the heat is more damaging now than in years past.

"We had smaller farms. Now everyone has 1,500 acres or more, so when you lose, you lose a lot. When you lost then, you just lost feed for three to four months," he said.

"You never thought about the heat. Either you had work to do, and you were out and you done it, and you didn't think about the heat," he said.

Peck said the worst summer conditions he'd seen were in 1958, but without rain, this year could be almost as bad.

"Everything was dried up to nothing ... If we don't get any rain now for another month, then that will be the critical time for the corn crop and bean crop.

Although he now sits comfortably in his air conditioned home, Peck said the AC can make outdoor work more difficult.

"If it was hot inside, it wouldn't seem so hot outside," he said. "But it makes us more comfortable, so maybe we're easier to live with."

Peck said back in the 1950s, with less cooling technology and resources, the heat would be much more damaging to milk production, and their only way to beat the heat was to drink extra water.

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  • by Benny on Jul 18, 2012 at 05:57 PM
    I'm thirsty.
  • by kip Location: ec on Jul 18, 2012 at 04:26 PM
    says a gov't employee from his a/c office
  • by ROK Location: ec on Jul 18, 2012 at 05:58 AM
    it's definitely different nowadays - today we are a nation almost entirely populated by whiners.
    • reply
      by Anon on Jul 19, 2012 at 10:06 AM in reply to ROK
  • by anon Location: Chippewa Valley on Jul 17, 2012 at 05:28 PM
    My Grandpa always talked about the cold winter of 1936 and the hot summer of 1936.
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