Weather, unlike climate change, is subject to human memory and thus we often call on our elders to tell us what it was like in the old days. Ask any old person on South Whidbey what the weather was like and they’ll recall climbing tall coconut trees, dancing in grass skirts and nighttime canoe raids on those devils on Camano Island. Our elders get a big kick out of telling us tall tales.
Perhaps that’s because they can’t remember with certainty what the weather on South Whidbey used to be like. But it seems to us it was warmer, particularly in the spring and early summer. Last weekend was rainy, this week started out with rain, and the Fourth of July looms next week.
Let us recall South Whidbey weather back when Bruce Klassen was fire chief. We used to have a lot of brush fires, starting in April. Later in the season it wasn’t unusual to have actual forest fires too big for us to handle. The Department of Natural Resources would send in special crews, on release from prison, to help extinguish all the blazes.
The days before the Fourth of July were always described as “dry as a tinder box.”
“Don’t play with fireworks, kids, it’s dry as a tinder box out there,” folks would say. Within minutes the forests would be ablaze.
It’s not dry as a tinder box today, and it probably won’t be before the Fourth of July. That leaves puny little grass fires like we had last week following a three-day dry spell where temperatures soared into the low 70s. Two firefighters put it out: No DNR prisoner crews required.
The days of the automatic burn ban before the Fourth of July are gone. It used to be as predictable as rain. Today, with island cooling, we can’t string together four warm days to give cause for a burn ban. This causes sleepless nights for fire officials who dearly desire a Fourth of July burn ban but can find no justification for one. What if a fire happens and no ban is in place? Nobody can say “we told you so.”
On the positive side, island cooling, like global climate change, will go away if we just wait long enough. July 5 usually does it.