The rains of August 1987

August 31, 2011

This past July Chicago recorded 9.81 inches of precipitation--the wettest July ever, and the 9th-wettest month in the city's history. But if you were here on this August 31st in 1987, you were just finishing monsoon month, the all-time record-holder. Let's turn back the clock 24 years. What was it like? How would you cope?

July 1987 had been very hot and very dry. When the rains came in the opening days of August, Chicago was relieved. At last it was cooling off.

But the rains continued . . . and continued . . . and continued. The Des Plaines River overflowed. Water backed up into basements. As the water receded swarms of mosquitoes appeared.

And then the rains returned. People joked about building an ark. But what was a "cubit" anyway?

So what did you do for relief in 1987? The parks and forest preserves were all mud. Spectator sports were not a happy solution--the Cubs and the Sox were floundering, and the Bears' pre-season was not going well.

TV was all summer reruns. If you were one of the fortunate few who had cable, there were plenty of black-and-white 1950s sitcoms to choose from. Too bad your VCR was in the shop getting fixed again.

The internet--what was that? Something to do with your computer? Well, maybe you could forget about the rain and play a modern video game. The people next door might even have Super Mario!

Perhaps there was comfort in irony. The weather bureau had predicted normal precip for August. The Farmer's Almanac had told us we were going to have a drought. But what did experts know? Ten years ago they'd said a new Ice Age was on the way. Now there was talk about something called global warming.

But we are Chicagoans, and we are tough! Let's take pride in what we've endured. Normal rainfall for August is 3.53 inches. In this August 1987, we've just finished a month with 17.10 inches, a new record!

And after all, the average temperature for the month came out to 81, which is about what it should be. (Okay, some days the high was 97, and other days it never got past 62. But it all averages out!)

Besides, fall is on the way--and the Bulls are looking good this year!