Chapter 21
Dry, Dry, Dry

Heatstroke in March?

The un-winter-like weather continues unabated. Last week, two of the days were over eighty degrees. On Friday, the previous record temperature was shattered by *eleven* degrees. A local bank was handing out bottles of cold water from coolers on the sidewalk. There were as many sixty-degree days in February as one would normally expect in April.

The plants are confused. Early flowers and trees are blooming early. The crocuses bloomed early and were wilted by the heat. Trees came out early and were frozen a couple days later. Some of the tulip magnolia trees came out a full month early, March 25th instead of about April 20th, and were chilled to death the next day by one seasonal but unusual night of frost. All those pink flowers turned to brown. Photographers were heartbroken. When I was in college down in New Jersey, the same trees used to come out in mid-April, and that is two hundred miles south of here.

Now comes the part familiar to those from Austin: drought. No one on the news has used that term yet, but they do report that we are three inches of rain behind for this month alone, and five inches behind for the year to date. Let's see. Average annual rainfall about 42 inches. Call it ten inches per quarter. (January thru March averages eleven inches; close enough.) That means we are about 50% behind for the year so far.

(All measurements in old-style English Fahrenheit and inch measurements. For the convenience of our European readers, here are some conversions. 60F = 15C, 80F = 27C. 5in = 13cm, 42in = 107cm.)

And what happens when it doesn't rain? Class? Anyone? Yes, that's right: brush fires. We had a brush fire on the Fenway (a park that, as you might guess from its name, the FEN way, used to be a swamp, but not THE Fenway Park) two weeks ago. Last week there was a brush fire in Worcester, where it rains about 15% more than in Boston. And there was another one on the news yesterday.

Gee, just like Austin. Except that I don't think that fire departments here have much experience fighting such things.