Tuesday, May 31, 2011

This Weather: Feel the Heat

Open the door. Peer out from the front porch and...ugh!
You can feel it.
There's only one way to phrase this properly.

It was hotter than you know what out there.

Heading into the Memorial Day weekend, I knew about the heat without bothering to venture far outdoors.

Inside the house, the air conditioning seemed to be running all the time.

My current project of cleaning out the garage had to be abandoned as sweat streaked my face and stung my eyes. The garage felt like living inside an oven.

The indoor/outdoor thermometer placed to the right of the kitchen sink told the story in numbers.

And that was the temperature at 7 p.m.! Earlier in the day we had hit a high of 107 F. degrees (41.6 degrees if you're a Celsius fan).

This was news that unfortunately this Van Winkle couldn't avoid by closing his eyes or stopping his ears. And it was pretty clear. There was more to come.

It made no sense.

A Brief History of Our Weather
Downtown we have this longtime business,
but do we really need them to supply MORE sun?
Where we live in the western mesquite plains is no stranger to high temperatures, but the inferno-like days normally arrive toward the halfway point of summer. The heat lasts into August and early September. We aren't supposed to be sizzling in May.

But in 2011 our weather has been fouled up and fouled up good.

It began with March and April when the normal springtime once-a-week thunderstorms failed to arrive. No thunder and no lightning and no rain. Just hot winds which fanned wildfires...

Finally we had a major downpour on Easter. We also received baseball size hail. Then we returned to the new norm.

Windy and hot.

So when I got up on Saturday morning at 6 a.m. and the thermometer already showed 79, I knew what was to come. Rather than complain about it, I enlisted our son to make a contest of it.

We would try to wish the temperature to go as high as possible. Hotter than anything we'd ever felt before.

A Festival of Heat
Around 4 p.m. I told our son, "This is it. It probably won't get any hotter." We had a plan. We would document this hottest day ever.

We drove downtown and parked in front of the restored Paramount Theater which shows classic films. Our son held up the thermometer. I snapped the picture. It was a juxtaposition I couldn't resist. And it was NOT Photoshopped!

Shucks! Why couldn't we get to 112 degrees?

Move Over Mythbusters
The other idea we had was to find out how hot the sidewalk was. Just trying putting your palm on it and keep it there. Ouch!
We had a more traditional experiment in mind, sort of our own episode of Mythbusters.

Could we fry an egg on a sidewalk while the outdoor temperature was hovering around 112?

I should tell you that the heat was accompanied by a fierce wind. Gusts up to 30 mph. This actually made it less horrible to be outdoors than if there had been no air circulation. But the wind also affected our first attempt to get a picture of the egg before I cracked it. We suddenly had an impromptu post-Easter egg roll.

Come back! The wind sends our egg
rolling away...

I chased down the egg and we started over.

With the temperature now down to a balmy 109 degrees, we stared at the puddle of ooze for a minute. Another minute. Another.

Not exactly summer blockbuster reading; it's more
like a summer block of a book on my end table.
Nothing happened. Our son suggested we drive over to the library (where air conditioning awaited us) and browse some books and then come back in half an hour.

To the library we went. I acquired a copy of a 900-page biography of Dostoevsky. Our son found out that Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman was, alas, checked out.

It was time to return to our sidewalk egg and see if it had achieved the state of sunny side up.

Well, the edges had cooked a little. And, funny thing, touching the surface revealed that the transparent part had morphed into a semi-hardened, rubbery consistency.

But the myth seemed to be busted. You could not fully cook an egg on the sidewalk on a hot day. But who would want to anyway? Maybe the experiment should be updated to something people might actually desire.

Next time we could try thawing out a frozen microwave dinner on the sidewalk. Or a frozen pizza. A half hour beneath ol' sol and it would be party time.

Final Confession
Throughout The Van Winkle Project I've been candid whenever there have been news leaks that have sullied my desired state of pristine ignorance. I'll admit just such right now.

From accidentally overheard conversations, I know that the weather in major portions of the U.S. has been bonkers for at least a month now. I've heard mention of monster tornadoes, killer tornadoes, tornado clusters, deluges and floods.

Given my overall lack of information, including any details, the weather in my not so fair city has me concerned. What if  it's part of some larger degenerate meteorological pattern hostile to bipedal life?
As always, the less one knows the more opportunity there is for fear. And perhaps this is the ultimate fear, when the enemy is nothing less than the blue, blue, relentlessly blue sky. But I can't stop looking up at the sky. I'm hoping for clouds and that thing they used to call "rain." - V.W.

Not raw egg, not cooked egg, but something mysterious
and in-between...


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