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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Worry over weather on hold

June Lemen

Man, it’s hot.

I am a native New Englander, and though I grew up slightly south of here, in the People’s Republic of Massachusetts, I am still accustomed to cool springs – not to 80- or 90-degree Aprils. It’s screwing up my garden. My viburnum bush is in full bloom. My peonies have nearly 8-inch stalks. My crocuses are a distant memory.

Should I be worried?

I am not sure.

My sister, Liz, lives in Texas – not far from Houston, and their weather has been unusual for the past few years. Even though Houston is known for its humidity, it’s been dry there. Nearly a drought, in terms of normal Houston precipitation. She actually had a pipe break beneath her house. The contractor thinks that it was because the ground had no water for so long that it hardened into near-brick. Then, when they had torrents of rainfall, it turned back into mud so quickly the pipe shifted and broke. Like a frost heave but caused by alternating drought and deluge. I guess you’d call that a drought heave.

My parents, who live next to a brook in Massachusetts, have a situation developing at the end of their street. The brook, which is natural, has been channeled by a culvert beneath the end of their street since the development they live in was built, back in the 1960s. There’s never been an issue with it. But recently, the end of the street seems to be sinking. I am not sure whether it has anything to do with weather, but I’ve noticed that the channel for the brook has become much wider, due to more rain in the past few years. This year, the brook is almost dry and has been so nearly the entire spring.

When I traveled last month to Sarasota, Fla., all the people who worked at the hotel were marveling about the weather. I was too, but I thought it was because I had left a cold and overcast Nashua to come to warm and sunny Florida.

“It’s unseasonably warm here,” the bartender told me.

“Really? It seems perfect to me – 85 degrees, breezy – what is it usually like?”

“Nearly 10 degrees cooler. It’s lovely now, but what about August?”

What about August?

Right now, my daughter Lucy is delighted to wear shorts to school and is reveling in the heat. So are the children that I see in the crosswalk every day. I myself am withholding judgment until I see what the summer brings.

There was one summer – 1993 – when I attended the Iowa Writer’s Festival. The first few days were lovely. Mid-week a kind of humidity that I had never felt before swept in, along with some interesting looking clouds. We spent one part of our afternoon break in the nearest tornado shelter to our classroom after the tornado siren went off.

None of the Iowans were worried. I was concerned, but not frightened.

I figured that the Iowans were the most knowledgeable people there, and if they worried, I would worry.

There was no tornado that afternoon, but I asked them what you are supposed to do if you are out somewhere and there is a tornado and no tornado shelter.

“Hit the ground,” they said.

“Shouldn’t you stay in your car?”

“God, no! That’s the worst thing possible. You should pull over and get out and lie on the ground.”


“Yes. Don’t you have tornadoes in New Hampshire?”

“Well, not since I’ve lived there.”

“Really?” one of the women asked. “What do you do in extreme weather?

“Our extreme weather is usually in the winter, so we stay inside until the snow passes.”

“So, what do you do in extreme heat?”

I told her that I swam, which I did at the time, in the Souhegan River, which was right behind my house. But if she asked me that now, I’d have to say, “I’m getting ready to find out.”

But who knows? This could just be a hot spring. Or a hot couple of days.

And as they say: It’s New England – wait an hour and the weather will change.

June Lemen is a freelance writer from Nashua. Contact her at Her column runs the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month.