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Kyle Eller: Heat's getting downright Sioux Falls-like

Six years and 10 days ago, my beloved and I launched our married lives together. The temperature that day in Sioux Falls hovered around 98 degrees with humidity in the same vicinity. Actually, that was lucky -- if I remember right, the forecast s...

Six years and 10 days ago, my beloved and I launched our married lives together. The temperature that day in Sioux Falls hovered around 98 degrees with humidity in the same vicinity. Actually, that was lucky -- if I remember right, the forecast said we'd top 100 degrees that day.
That was a cool spell for Sioux Falls in late July. There, summers are routinely dangerous and a good central air system in the summer is as urgent as a good heater is in a northern Minnesota winter: You can survive (I wouldn't call it live) without it, but it's blasted uncomfortable and risky.
I remember that Sandy and I at one point patted ourselves on the back for picking an air-conditioned church. No visions of collapsing grandparents to worry over.
After the wedding, some friends drove us around for a while before the reception, the cheap version of a limo. We stopped at one of my favorite parks and piled out of the car, because I "needed" a cigarette break back in those days. The whole world just sort of closed in on my tuxedoed body like the universe was a massive sauna. Pass the towels.
In short, it was a lot like these last few days here in the Northland.
We were deeply mistaken if we thought that hotly auspicious beginning to our marriage was an indication of things to come. We were moving to Duluth, and what's memorable about Sandy's first two years here is not the hot summers but the miserable winters.
Do you remember the winters of 1995-96 and 1996-97?
The first, I believe, was the year we had a record-setting 87 million inches of snow in Duluth. By mid-winter, the piles of snow along the sidewalk were tall enough to make the walkway seem more like a white tunnel. We didn't so much walk to our cars as spelunk to them.
I remember shoveling out our vehicles, over and over again, only to watch them balk at the first unplowed intersection. Our old place in the East Hillside gave Sandy her master's degree in slippery, hilly winter driving.
In winter No. 2, the cold hit. I think that was the year Embarrass dropped to within a sniff of absolute zero, where all energy is dissipated and atoms stop moving. Or something like that.
I know that we mostly stopped moving that winter, and so did our cars.
Mrrrrrr-mrrrr-mrr-mr. Click. Click.
"Start, you #$@%! $&*@ it!"
At the end of that year, even a loyal, hearty Northland native like me was bitter enough to dream of a warmer climate when the ice chunks started melting from my bone marrow. Sandy was ready, too, although I convinced her those first two winters in Duluth had prepared her for life in, say, Siberia, or the Yukon Territory admirably.
Meanwhile, conditions in Sioux Falls, where Sandy's family lives, seemed tropical by comparison, as they always had when I returned to college after winter break. As I remember, there was some good-natured teasing about our life on the tundra -- teasing that turned around come June every year.
In June, the roles traditionally reversed between Sioux Falls and Duluth. Theirs was the extreme climate now, and soon it was us doing the teasing. The relations gutted out blast-furnace temps while we reveled in mid-70s and sunshine on the Lakewalk.
I think all bets are off on the teasing as of today.
Here in the Northland, several recent winters have been warm enough to rival Sioux Falls. During a couple of them, I was still hiking well into December and hardly did any cross-country skiing, a vexing situation after the novelty wore off. It was a relief to have a somewhat normal winter last year.
And now this. Our summers are almost as bad as theirs.
Saturday night was tolerable. Sunday night was a miserable night of tossing and turning and wandering the house at 3 a.m. and 5 a.m. I can't even blame it on the car stereos this time.
Unprepared for such indignities, Duluthians have made a run on air conditioners and fans and hotel rooms. I haven't checked, but I'm guessing even Global Village is out of stock for those folding Asian hand fans.
"This is just not Duluth," Sandy told me today, exhausted and panting almost as heavily as our fur-clad Pomeranian, Tia. She was on her way to the air-conditioned car for a "drive." She had just emerged with the dog from an icy shower. Our bathroom is strewn with towels from similar events.
On Sunday afternoon, Sandy actually saw a person sleeping in a parked car along the street, engine -- and air conditioning -- running. It didn't seem like a terrible idea, except from an environmental and a carbon monoxide standpoint.
We have lined our windows with tin foil to reflect out the heat, shiny side out so we don't end up like a giant baked potato. Ice packs normally reserved for sprained ankles have found homes on hot necks. Fans, running for days on end, have pushed their tiny engines to the limit, recently blowing on blocks of ice purchased at gas stations for old-fashioned "air conditioning."
It's like getting married all over again.
The long-range forecast hints that we might have highs in the 60s in only a few days, assuming there's anything left of us. As for the longer range forecast, if I've learned anything it's that we don't have a clue what the weather's going to do.
At least we have some consolation knowing the weather will probably be hotter and uglier in Sioux Falls.

Kyle Eller is news editor for the Budgeteer News. Reach him at kyle.eller@duluth.com or 723-1207.

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