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Wichita’s summer was hot, but not the hottest

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Sunday, Sep. 2, 2012, at 9:51 p.m.
  • Updated Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2013, at 2:53 p.m.

It was such a hot, dry summer in Wichita and Kansas that most fall crops didn’t stand a chance.

Folks stayed indoors just to keep from broiling.

The Arkansas River ran dry in north Wichita.

Cracks in the soil grew so large schoolchildren in Andover were told to stay off the dirt on the playground when the new school year opened.

Even the fishing was lousy.

Summer 2012 will hardly be missed.

“This was the worst drought in the Farm Belt since the 1930s,” AccuWeather vice president Mike Smith said.

Though the calendar insists summer doesn’t end for another few weeks, the meteorological end of summer arrived Friday.

This year was on track to the be fifth driest summer in Wichita history until the final weekend of August arrived, said Eric Schminke, the climatologist for the Wichita branch of the National Weather Service.

An extended dry spell was ended by a record-setting day of rainfall. On Aug. 25, 2.74 inches of rain fell in Wichita. That broke the record for most rain on Aug. 25 by a full inch, Schminke said.

It also pushed August’s rainfall above average for the month, though it will take several more inches of rain to break the drought that has been choking Kansas this summer.

Jeannie Mainzer, who describes herself as an avid fisher, had one word to describe the fishing this summer: “Abysmal.”

She blames the drought.

“My normal fishing spots weren’t deep enough, and I think the fish headed out to deeper waters,” Mainzer wrote in a Facebook message. “I don’t have a boat, so I couldn’t really get to the deep waters.”

Three years ago, she and her family went to El Dorado Reservoir to camp and fish. They caught tons of fish in a cove, she said.

Three weeks ago, they went to “the exact same spot.” It had become “a stinky mess of black muck.”

The only fish in the now-shallow cove were carp and baby catfish.

Fishing the Arkansas River in Wichita was merely a memory for much of the summer, and the flow still hasn’t recovered. Wichita would need another 9 to 12 inches of rain to erase the drought, officials say.

This year seemed poised to join the heat heavyweights from summers past, until August cooled off.

Sunday, Wichita reached 100 degrees for the 35th time this year, according to the Weather Service. It’s well short of the all-time high of 53 days set last year.

This will still go down as Wichita’s sixth-hottest summer on record, as measured by average temperature. The average temperature in June, July and August was 82.8 degrees, nudging past 2010’s 82.3.

The top spot is shared by 1936 and 1934 at 85.3, with 2011 and 1980 close behind at 85.2.

Eight temperature records fell this summer in Wichita five highs and three warmest lows.

The high reached 111 on back-to-back days in late July, falling just three degrees short of Wichita’s all-time high of 114 set in 1936. Coincidentally, the low of 80 on July 29 fell three degrees short of the all-time mark for warmest low of 83.

That means July 29 fell three degrees short of both records, Schminke said.

As meteorologists consign the summer of 2012 to the history books, however, there’s reason for optimism.

Thanks to the widespread soaking rains the final weekend of August and from the remnants of Hurricane Isaac, Smith said, the winter wheat belt will be “in quite decent shape” for planting.

An El Nino is forming in the Pacific, which typically means more moisture for the central Plains.

That’s setting the stage for regular moisture this fall and winter.

“At this point, I’m reasonably optimistic,” Smith said.

Reach Stan Finger at 316-268-6437 or sfinger@wichitaeagle.com.

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