Sunday, July 15, 2012

Heat melting Wisconsin economy?

Here comes another record heat wave for Wisconsin this Summer. 95 today in Madison, 99 forecast for tomorrow and 101 for Tuesday. Keep it cool out there folks.

It's already been an historic start to 2012 for warmth. NOAA revealed that each of the last 3 months have been the 3 hottest 12-months stretches on record.

Relatedly, NOAA confirms that Wisconsin had its warmest January to June in history, 1 degree a day warmer than the previous record. And the state's largest cities have also had historic heat from January to June.

Milwaukee- Hottest in 65 years
Madison- Hottest in 65 years
Green Bay- Hottest in 65 years
La Crosse- Hottest in 73 years

This doesn't count the 100-degree temperatures we had earlier this month, nor does it include the ones that are coming this week. That earlier heat wave fell during Milwaukee's Summerfest, and is being blamed for the Fest's drop in attendance of 8.3% for 2012, and a drop in revenue of 7.5%. We won't see the sales tax numbers by county until later in the Summer, but I'd be very interested to see if the heat has helped or hurt tourism. Even north of Highway 29, it's been in the 80s and 90s, and while that's a lot better than what we've had in the southern part of the state, a lot of these places don't have air conditioning, so we'll see if that trades off. Also very interested to see how the Dells Water Parks have done (I'd imagine well, although when it's 100 it's a bit hard to chill on the Lazy River).

Unfortunately, along with this heat has been the worsening drought, as shown in last Thursday's release from the U.S. drought monitor.

As you can see, 1/6 of the state went from moderate to severe drought in the first week of July, and you could see a repeat of that worsening coming up. Sure, a few portions of the state got minor relief with a lucky downpour or two over the weekend, but that sure didn't happen in the Madison area, where we only got 0.01 inch at the airport despite forecasts for scattered storms. And the only rain forecast for the rest of the week are scattered storms for Tuesday and Wednesday. Hoo boy.

A second "hoo boy," goes out because we have a Governor who has been AWOL while this drought has continued. Badger Democracy's Scott Wittkopf has an excellent article detailing Walker's dereliction of duty in these weather-stressed times. Dane County Executive Joe Parisi asked Gov. Walker on Thursday to request a federal disaster declaration for Wisconsin to expedite aid (Instead, Walker chose to spend last week writing dishonest anti-Obamacare op-eds and showing up at Mitt Romney events in Virginia) . GOP State Sen. Dale Schultz also asked the Walker Administration to take further action to help farmers.
“Across southern Wisconsin, livestock and crop farmers have no escape from serious financial damage due to six weeks of record heat and drought,” said Schultz, who chairs the Senate’s committee for agriculture.

Today, Schultz called upon a state authority to make low-interest emergency loans available to farmers struggling to survive the drought.

In a letter to Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority Executive Director Wyman Winston, Schultz wrote, “Farmers I have been in contact with inform me the damages they have already suffered will result in at least six to twelve months of financial hardship. They face cash flow shortages due to uncertain harvest timing and production levels, increased livestock feed costs, and other drought-related challenges.”

Schultz said WHEDA provided drought emergency loans during the historic drought of 1988.
While Walker concentrates on raising his name nationally, we have 11 Dane County fire fighting entities having to battle huge grass fires. It's now time to recognize that our hot summer is more than a curious footnote, but is instead causing real economic problems in Wisconsin, and it's also time to ask tough questions about why our governor doesn't seem to care about that.

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