In case you haven’t noticed the prevailing weather conditions, we are smack dab in the high heat of the summer season. As bad as the typical tropical heat and humidity we experience here seem sometimes, summers here aren’t nearly as brutal as they are elsewhere in Florida or other parts of this great nation. (If you don’t like it here, try a summer in Ft. Myers sometimes. It’s just as humid, and five degrees warmer on average.)
The fact that we’re surrounded by water is what keeps us a bit more insulated from the extreme temperatures that mainlanders experience. While many places in the United States (and other countries) routinely experience high temperatures over 100º, we rarely get higher (temperature-wise) than 92º. We also don’t cool off at night as much, rarely dipping below 80º. Add in our ever-present humidity, however, and we often feel a lot warmer than the actual temperature. (And the word is “temperature,” not “temp,” like the way too many TV weatherpersons misuse the word these days. “Temp” was always short for a temporary worker in the America I grew up in, Mister! A “high temp” wasn’t what a TV weatherman would call 95º, it was descriptive of a short-term employee who was stoned out of her gourd.)
Meteorologists have given the combination of heat and humidity a name: the Heat Index. So when it’s 92º and 75% relative humidity, it actually feels like 116º. That’s why I can walk the streets of Las Vegas in August at 110º and still have a dry shirt, while 20º cooler in Marathon with our humidity means I take multiple shirts to all my outdoor gigs. Of course, the dryness of the Vegas desert cracks your skin and chaps your lips, and totally dries out your nasal lining. What a tradeoff.
Other Hot-As-Hell places I’ve spent summers in are the inland southern cities of Columbia, South Carolina and Augusta, Georgia. Combine lots of concrete and asphalt with high temperatures and humidity and absolutely no breeze and you have a recipe for broiled sweltering misery. Why those entire towns don’t just empty out in August is beyond me.
There are a few things we need to remember about summer in the Keys. Heat exhaustion and overexposure to the sun can take down the strongest of people. It’s not the sissy thing to do to wear sunscreen, stay in the shade, and stay hydrated. (Beer does not count.)
And while mosquitoes can be bad (sorry, Big Pine Key), at least we don’t have to worry about Psorophora ciliata – a large floodwater mosquito also known as the “gallinipper.” It’s big, persistent, and it can bite through clothing. Its bite is painful and will leave a mark. It’s been described as “the little zebra-legged thing – the shyest, slyest, meanest and most venomous of them all.” And none other than respected news source Time magazine reported that this mosquito could invade Florida this summer. Great…
Getting past the Heat Index, there are actually good things about summer in the Keys. We almost always have some sort of breeze (and not, hopefully, the 70+ mph variety). The waters are calmer. The underwater visibility is at its best for divers and snorkelers. The fishing is great. And we seem to miss most of the mainland summer afternoon thunderstorms (sorry, Key Largo). And there seems to exist a visitor base that helps sustain our local economy. So bring a towel, extra shirts, and plenty of water. Then you’ll be ready for whatever summer throws your way.
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John Bartus is a singer/songwriter and former Mayor of the City of Marathon. John plays with Storm Watch this Friday at Looe Key Tiki, and this Saturday at the Key Colony Inn. This Thursday, John plays at Sparky’s Landing. Don’t forget to catch Storm Watch at the Seafood Festival Saturday March 8 at 5 PM! www.johnbartus.com