THE misery index loves company.
Actually it's the heat index, that measure of temperature mixed with the humidity. But with recent heating, the temperature is becoming a master over the moisture. Lower humidity may help 98 degrees feel more like, well, 99 degrees, but it also increases fire danger. That's misery wrapped in a cocoon of concern.
The miserable company Oklahoma is now keeping is the 72 percent of the country labeled by the U.S. Drought Monitor as being in the “abnormally dry” category or worse. This is the largest geographic extent of drought or pre-drought conditions recorded since the Drought Monitor began in 1999, according to Associate State Climatologist Gary McManus.
“Odds favor more drought development as summer trudges ahead and a dry Oklahoma looks with anticipation toward the fall rainy season,” McManus noted this week in an Oklahoma Climatological Survey press release. Nearly half the state is already enduring drought conditions, he said, with the remainder “abnormally” dry, a precursor to outright drought classification.
Given the misery of the summer of 2011, this is discomfiting news. We've gone from “Surely it can't be as bad as last year” to “Here we go again!”
At least the economic misery index (adding the unemployment rate to the inflation rate) doesn't yet have the firefighters on high alert.
When an F5 tornado hit Moore on May 3, 1999, it did $800 million in estimated damage to that community's neighborhoods. Today, Moore is one of Oklahoma's fastest-growing cities. Recent Census Bureau figures ranked Moore among the top 100 cities with 50,000 or more people based on its growth. The community added 1,234 people from 2010 to 2011 (2.2. percent growth). Oklahoma City and surrounding suburbs have all enjoyed growth in recent years. The Census Bureau found that Oklahoma City's population increased by 2.1 percent from 2010 to 2011, while Mustang and Yukon experienced population growth greater than 3 percent. Yet Moore stands out because of its not-so-distant tragic past. Recalling the horror of 1999 and the broad path of rubble the tornado made of buildings and people's lives, Moore's growth has been a remarkable achievement — and a testament to the perseverance of Oklahomans.
For kids, the end of the school year is still a recent memory and thoughts of returning are far from their minds. Not so for retailers. The Wall Street Journal reports many sellers have already begun their back-to-school push. Oklahomans may face weeks of temperatures near or above the century mark, but summer clothes are already on markdown. Students obviously find it jarring to be reminded that their freedom will soon end, but even many parents are disturbed by the shift to ever-earlier sales efforts. The reason for the move is simple: “Back to school” is the third-largest sales period of the year with an estimated $70 billion in sales at stake. Add to that the growing competition from online retailers, and you start to understand why stores are so eager to shift focus to the classroom, even if the kids aren't.
We recently argued that state ethics rules shouldn't allow ethics complaints to be filed close to an election, which prevents the accused from clearing their names. We were pleased to learn Ethics Commissioner Jo Pettigrew has now called for a blackout period on filing complaints to end the problem, rightly noting the unfairness of the system. Shortly before the June 26 primary, state Rep. Mike Reynolds, R-Oklahoma City, filed ethics complaints against several state lawmakers based on contribution reports. Reynolds was campaigning for a primary challenger of one of the men he accused of violations. When the Ethics Commission met after the primary, seven complaints were dismissed because no violations occurred. As expected, they were simple reporting errors. A blackout period is a good idea; we hope the commission quickly adopts this common-sense proposal. Ethics complaints shouldn't be a venue for campaign dirty tricks.