Summer weather in Ohio is as variable as life’s events

flower garden
Summer bouquet. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

By Bruce Stambaugh

After another wonderful summer day with partly sunny skies, pleasant temperatures, light breezes and little humidity, I’m watching the rain pour down.

It’s July. It’s Ohio. It’s the way weather happens here.

After the harsh winter and cool, damp spring, we were ready for an old-fashioned summertime. To be clear, that meant nothing but clear skies and warm sunny weather through September.

Of course, that never really has happened, never will. But we can dream can’t we?

The truth is we need to be honest with ourselves about summer weather in Ohio. We can have good days, better days, and then there’s the rest. Some of Ohio’s summer weather can be downright nasty, if not hazardous.

The consequential weather can be fearsome, and put a kink into your best-laid plans. A picture perfect day can morph into our worst nightmares. Tornadoes, hail storms, damaging thunderstorm winds are among the wicked weather menu options.

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The July 1969 flood comes to mind. I didn’t live in Holmes County then. Still, the storm was widespread, and I saw damage and destruction. I was an intern reporter for The Plain Dealer in Cleveland. I headed to the Chautauqua Institution near Jamestown, New York for the holiday weekend.

I didn’t stay long. All the activities got rained out. On the way back to my apartment in a western Cleveland suburb, I passed several ConEdison power company trucks in New York heading west on the interstate.

I stopped at the newspaper on the way back and saw photos of boats being bashed against the rocky lakeshore. Power was out in much of the Cleveland area, including my neighborhood. In fact, one of those ConEdison trucks that I had passed was parked in front of my apartment.

Powerful winds drove the pouring rain right through the old, thick brick walls of our building. Huge trees snapped in a nearby park, and teenagers directed traffic at busy intersections.

Six weeks later I saw the damage done in Killbuck, my new home. Folks were still trying to recover from the devastating flood that touched nearly every building in the creekside town.

Weather is to be both appreciated and respected when it interrupts our human plans. When we hear thunder, we need to take cover. Avoid those treacherous floodwaters and find another way around.

Click on the photos to enlarge.

As a weather buff, I cringe when I hear of people being struck by lightning playing golf or baseball, and when I learn of youngsters being swept away playing in swollen streams. Those are sad stories that need not have happened.

Weather is a lot like life, isn’t it? A wise Amish farmer once told me, “We just have to take whatever weather comes our way.” I think that philosophy applies to other aspects of our lives as well.

How do we respond when one of life’s happenings strikes us like a lightning bolt?

A surprise medical diagnosis by the doctor, an unexpected budget-breaking bill, a broken relationship, the death of a loved one can all wash over our emotions like a flash flood.

It’s summer in Ohio. Not every day will be sunny, nor will everything that happens to us be fair. We can’t change the weather, and sometimes can’t even alter our personal circumstances.

What we can do is keep on hoping for sunny summer days. It won’t be all cloudy and miserable forever.

It’s July. It’s Ohio. It’s the way weather and life happen here.

Summer sunset
Summer sunset. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

© Bruce Stambaugh 2015

The weather we have waited for is here

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The summer weather in Ohio’s Amish country has been superb so far. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

By Bruce Stambaugh

If you’re like me, you’ve been enjoying this wonderful summer weather. It’s the weather we longed for last winter when the wind howled, snow slanted sideways, and the temperatures were ridiculous.

After the long winter came a cool, wet spring, and torrential rains in June. I’m glad the weather has changed for the better. We are grateful for the abundant rain. By the looks of it, so are the crops.

Most corn was well beyond “knee high by the Fourth of July.” Its deep green, leafy stalks are soaring in most places. A soft breeze enhances that vibrant corn aroma after a summer shower.

Where water from June’s heavy rains pooled in depressions, crops are struggling, or non-existent. Weather can be cruel after all. Weather can be magnanimous, too, like recent days.

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Rainbow following flash flooding. © Craig Stambaugh 2014.
After horrible lightning and flash flooding, the loveliest of rainbows appears just at sunset. Nature always has her way with us. Fortunately, she has been kind to us here. Historically, the hottest days of summer are already behind us.

That doesn’t mean it won’t be unusually warm again. But the chances for a long heat wave or extended dry period are pretty slim. It would be nice if the same could be said for the parched western states.

We rejoice here for the many white, puffy cloud days we have enjoyed with perfect temperatures day and night. After the persistent rains of spring and early summer, contractors, excavators, farmers, and any other outdoor workers dependent on fair weather have had their prayers answered.

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A typical summer scene in Ohio’s Amish country. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

Fields of oats turned from lime to gray-green to golden right on cue. Now squadrons of shocks stand guard for the showy corn against any unwanted predators. In other fields, combined oat stubble serves as a russet reminder of where the wind recently played with amber waves of grain.

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Rainbows appear in flowerbeds, too. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.
Summer’s hues, natural and human-induced, have been simply amazing. Besides the ripening crops, the flowerbeds seem to have invented new color combinations. Splashed against a blue, blue sky, they seem brighter still.

Foggy mornings wet the grass that has grown inches again overnight. The weather has been so nice that lawn care people can hardly keep up. Lush doesn’t even properly define our blessed verdant conditions.

The heirloom tomatoes flourished to the point of having to be trimmed back, least they topple their cages. The pleasant weather encourages them to counter attack by growing even bushier.

Evenings have been extraordinary. Friends ring campfires to rest, relax and celebrate nothing more than the fine company they are with. Families and friends picnic. Children and adults play ball, or just rock away the time on the front porch. That’s the way summer evenings should be shared.

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Another blazing summer sunset. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

I can think of only one word to describe recent sunsets, spectacular. One evening’s fiery show outdoes the next. And when I think the rich, warm colors will cool, they blush all the more.

Whenever I venture outside on these blissful days, my mind wanders back when the neighborhood kids spent the entire day outside, save returning to home base for sustenance.

After supper, we were back at it. If we didn’t have a ball game, we’d play hide and seek or rode our bicycles until dark. Then we’d lie on our backs in the cool grass and watch the stars.

It’s glorious not to have to rely on dreamy memories this summer. The weather we have longed for is here. Let’s enjoy it to the max.

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Tan oats contrast nicely against a rich, green field of corn. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2014

The days we have waited for

Wildflowers by Bruce Stambaugh
A wildflower patch in our backyard.

By Bruce Stambaugh

The days we have long awaited are at hand. After a winter that wouldn’t quit, and a spring that seemed more like November threefold, these desired days have sprung upon us as if a seasonal switch suddenly had been flipped, albeit belatedly.

Like much of the northern part of the country, Ohio spent the first five months of 2011 snowed in, flooded out, and shivering. Officially northeast Ohio had recorded a grand total of six sunny days between Jan. 1 and May 1.

Squall line by Bruce Stambaugh
A squall line charged into Ohio's Amish country.

The predominance of the gloomy, damp and cold days translated into depressed spirits and confined activities. But even as the days of May warmed and trees and flowers budded and bloomed, human outdoor activity remained restricted by wave after wave of heavy rainstorms.

Though we were mostly spared the severe weather that other parts of the country received, outside work and play remained limited. Now all that is behind us. The rich warm days of summer are here, and it is marvelous to inhale and embrace their arrival.

The anxious anticipation for sunnier, warmer days ended seemingly overnight. Farmers all across America’s breadbasket couldn’t wait to get into their fields, though many had to due to the saturated soil. Even teams of workhorses labored extra hard to break the soggy earth.

Plowing by Bruce Stambaugh
Plowing with horses is a long, steady process.

One week wood ducks floated on temporary lakes. The next the waterfowl were gone, replaced by plowed, harrowed and planted fields. That’s what a string of sunny days accompanied by strong warm southwest breezes can do to excess moisture.

Contractors and landscapers worked sun up to sundown to make up for lost time in pouring footers, building, excavating, and planting annuals. Commerce was renewed.

Planting by Bruce Stambaugh
My wife planted some heirloom tomatoes.

Motorcycle clubs and bicycle enthusiasts basked in the opportunities to wind their way all across rural byways. Children rode up and down lanes in pony carts and four-wheelers alike.

Gardeners finally could set their vegetable seeds and plants. In some locales, cooperative groups gathered to make the pleasant process all the more so and speedier.

Teenagers plunged without complaint into chilly lake waters just because they could. The outboard motors of both boaters and fishermen hummed in unison at the freedom to finally be able to play.

Sunset splash by Bruce Stambaugh
Teenagers took the plunge off the dock at Lakeside, OH.

Backyard birds coaxed their fledglings out of their secure nests and into the environs of the real world. Often they paused to collectively sun themselves like gaggles of bathers at the beach sans the bikinis.

Baby robin by Bruce Stambaugh
A young robin enjoyed the nice weather.collectively sun themselves like gaggles of bathers at the beach sans the bikinis.

The deciduous trees unfolded their canopy without delay, painting the landscape green on green. Soon the leaf cutters were hard at work thinning the verdant crop.

Irises, lilacs, peonies, poppies and roses created fragrant rainbows in every neighborhood. Azaleas and rhododendrons revealed their lovely petals just as the dogwoods dropped theirs.

Flower garden by Bruce Stambaugh
One of my wife's beautiful flower gardens.

Sitting on the airy deck of our woodland cottage in southeast Ohio, a single butterfly exactly symbolized the temporal jubilance. An impressive yellow and black tiger swallowtail zipped erratically through forest openings forged by gravel roadways and power line cuts.

Woods by Bruce Stambaugh
Where the butterfly roamed.

The butterfly darted unpredictably from shade to sun repeatedly among the emerald lushness. The butterfly improvised its quixotic dance back and forth all afternoon and well into the evening hours. I never saw it land.

Butterfly by Bruce Stambaugh
A Tiger Swallow Tail enjoyed our backyard wildflowers.

These are the days we have longed for, hoped for, prayed for. Like the innocent butterfly, let us rejoice and be glad in them, dancing a celebrative dance as if our sole purpose was to simply extol life’s goodness. Perhaps it is.