By Ken Stern 

May's warmth a sneak


Whatever your politics and values, this year to date may have seemed generally gloomy, at least. Inflation stays persistently high, the potential of recession seems to be forever looming, wages are lower than the ongoing rising costs of everything, there is work but too few workers and then there is the persistent war in Ukraine, which appears as if it will never end.

Here at home, until May, glorious May, 2023 has the general and overall feel of being cold and damp. And it has been, cold and at least gray, all the way back to the snows and floods of December. The weather data show below average temperatures through April but also below-normal precipitation. All that overcast and dampness, but surprisingly little rain. And that pattern continues this month.

But not temperature-wise. There was no hint of frost. Only twice in May’s first ten days did morning lows dip below forty degrees. So May snuck by, dry, sometimes warm – and maybe this is a surprise – with three Skagit County record high temperature days mid-month, May 13-15.

The record is clear, however. It reached 79.6 degrees on the 13th, then was 82.1 and 86.6 degrees the next two days. That was a weekend that a heat advisory was called for the Seattle area. We were warned of excessive heat here, also. Yes it was surprisingly warm, but not too warm for opening shelters, through a record breaking high and for three days in a row.

If anyone noticed they did not give voice to it to me. That is why I am reflecting on it now, as the month ends. What if we have record breaking heat and nobody notices? Or, what will the record high temperatures have to be that they get our attention?

The frogs slowly boiling in the pot of water so slowly heating comes to mind as a metaphor. Three record hot days – in a row – and did everyone think “finally!” and go on with their days, normally? The season is not linear even if it was certainly cool for months on end. And, it has been abnormally dry since the year began. This is not to say that the three record high temperatures in a row mid-month portend a hot – or a dry – summer, though it is likely to be dry until September.

In La Conner, the Emergency Management Commission formed this year has reviewed and considered saltwater flooding from the Swinomish Channel. November will come soon enough with its seasonal king tides. Planning and finding funding to execute plans just as they seem to need executing is that marriage of staffing, preparation and available funds merging.

If high heat comes this summer and persists, focus will turn to the trauma of the moment and the day. Heat was not a problem last year, but just as summer started in 2021 the region experienced persistent record high temperatures.

The last time the Swinomish Channel came over it banks was some 40 years ago. It is more likely that there will be high temperatures more often than that cycle in the years to come. Planning for it makes good sense.


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