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June 14, 2008


Bill Shelton

I must have a selective memory. The hottest summer that I remember here was 1988, and it's not on the list.

It went on for days and days. I had a vacation in July, no money to go anywhere, and no air conditioning.

I lay on the floor for two weeks drinking cold beer and watching videos. I'd go out about 9:00 PM to replenish the beer and videos and buy the next day's pizza so I wouldn't have to use the stove.

At one point, I tried Marilyn Monroe's solution in "The Seven Year Itch." I put a spare set of underwear in the freezer. It was briefly refreshing, but it only lasted about five minutes.

The weather stayed cruelly humid, even though it didn't rain for days and days. Toward the end, I saw two trees fighting over a dog.

James Norton

Bill -

How's it going?

Well, as a whole, the summer of 1988 was not very hot - specifically the month of July averaged only 75 degrees.

The point of this week's View From Prospect Hill was that it was so hot before the first day of summer this year, and for a couple of days, which hasn't happened all that often historically.

Aside from that, in 1988 it was only above 90 actual in tiny little spurts...three days in June, four days in July and I believe two days in August - always back to back to back (well you get the idea).

The stretch you are referring to would be July 6th to July 18th - where it was only below 80 degrees for a high one of those days and actually above 90 degrees for 9 of the 13 days. The humidity was silly during that 13 day stretch as well which would explain the uncomfortable surroundings you experienced.

Additional data shows that of the 31 days in July of 1988, it was above 90% humidity 24 days and was a solid, stifling 100% humidity for 12 days. That would make 90 degrees seem like 110 in nothing flat.

And as such, explains your memory of 1988 being so sticky and hot. I definitely would have referenced it in the View, but I was trying to stick to that date (prior to actual summer) historically.

Have I mentioned I am a bit of a weather-nerd? Enjoy the day.



JN - minor quibble, I believe your humidity figures might be the high figures for the day, which usually occur during the middle of the night. Humidity (as a percent) decreases as the temperature heats up, and I'm too lazy to post a technical description.

Still, humidity figures of 90 and 100% at night usually lead to some nasty unbearable weather during the day. My bellweathers for hellish days include:

80 degrees by 8 o'clock
80 degrees and 80 percent humidity

The 80-80 combination is particularly hideous, I believe the last time I tracked this the weather topped out at 95 degrees and 56 per cent humidity, which is pretty frigging unbearable.

James Norton

Tricky -

Thanks for adding that. You are absolutely right. I didn't want to be a complete nerd. Enjoy the weather.


Bill Shelton

Good grief, Jamie, you're right. I missed the part where you said you were looking at PRE-summer weather. Sign me up for remedial reading.

I must have remembered that July 1988 heatwave as lasting all summer because it lasted all of my vacation. I didn't mention that that month a saw a dog chasing a cat, and they were both walking.


I would also vote for 1988 as being, if not the hottest summer (overall), then at least the most uncomfortable. One thing in particular which stands out in my recollection of that summer was the number and frequency of thunderstorms we had.

I clearly recall there being an acute shortage of air conditioners and even fans which developed by early August. Even in N. Conway, NH, stores were sold out of everything.

My wife was carrying our son at the time, and just entering her third tri-mester. Along around late June she was starting to really feel the heat and sent me out in our little Monza hatchback to get an air conditioner.

This odyssey started at Somerville Lumber--no go. Then Lechmere (first in Cambridge, then in Danvers), Service Merchandise (at Twin City) and A&W Electronics over in Medford; everyone was sold out. I even called Sears over in Porter Square--nothing to be had. Panic was beginning to set in.

I ended up, finally, at Highland Superstore in Danvers. They had two units left. One was a bizarre-looking verticle unit. The other was a massive 14,000 BTU, all 220V unit. Now, higher voltage anything uses less current and thus costs less to run. I think due to its being 220V, most folks seeking a quick fix steered clear.

This was my lucky day. I had a home run in the dining room that was 12-2 w/ground and stopped at Grossmans, picked up a two-pole 15 amp breaker and the appropriate outlet, came home and within an hour or so we were luxuriating in air-conditioned comfort courtesy of what came to be called "The Big Chill".

We still have that unit and it still runs great. It became a bit of a ritual installing and removing it each year, since it was a two-person job. Several years ago we installed Central Air (which is NOT an over-rated experience!), so The Big Chill sits in reserve, ready to go at a moment's notice.

As I was reminded about this, it is remarkable to see how much the retail landscape has changed in 20 years though. Not one of the stores I mentioned still exist at the same locations. Indeed, every one except Sears is gone completely.

Thanks Jamie, Bill, et al. In some wierdly nostalgic way it brings back smiles whenever my wife and I talk about it.


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