ADVERTISEMENT

Over the past week, we've pulled a few things out of the closet that we haven't needed in a very long time:



Jackets. Down blankets. Umbrellas.

If the rain and cooler temperatures didn't make it clear, today marks the official end of the historically hot and dry summer of 2012.

The season offered nearly four months of uninterrupted outdoor plans. If you were a golfer, boat owner or a bride planning a garden wedding, you loved the long stretches of blazing sunshine.

"The weather was a great friend this summer," said Michael Schmand, executive director of Buffalo Place, which put on 18 waterfront concerts this year and only saw rain at two.

However, if you were trying to grow something - a garden or a corn crop - then the bone-dry conditions hit you harder than Marcell Dareus. The region's lawns turned brown , unless you were willing to pour hundreds of dollars into your grass.

Animals at the Buffalo Zoo found creative ways to keep cool, while pests thrived thanks to the early spring and hot summer.

"It is significantly busier than most years," said Peter Tripi, senior public health sanitarian with the Erie County Department of Health.

So here's the summer of 2012, by the numbers and as it played out on the links, at the movie theaters and in the orchards.

Hot enough for you?

The four-month period from May 1 to Aug. 31 was the warmest - and the third-driest - in 142 years of local record-keeping, according to the National Weather Service.

Only 4.79 inches of rain fell during June, July and August, with 1.95 of that coming in the first three days of June. August set three records for daily high temperatures, while July had 28 days at or above 80 degrees and five days above 90.

"It was a very tough summer on plants and anything that grows," said Aaron Reynolds, a meteorologist with the Weather Service in Buffalo. The dry summer also could affect our fall foliage, Reynolds warned, with leaves possibly lacking their usual vibrancy or dropping off trees before they've fully changed color.

More golfers

The extended run of pleasant weather helped boost the number of rounds played at the Town of Tonawanda's Sheridan Park and Brighton golf courses by 17 percent through August compared with the same period in 2011, recreation supervisor Jeff Rainey said.

But the town has had to use 50 percent more water than last year to keep its greens, fairways and tee boxes from drying out, said Rainey, who nevertheless doesn't mind that the summer of 2012 didn't match his last name.

I scream, you scream

Sales at Anderson's Frozen Custard stands rose about 4 percent in 2012, year to date, over the same period last year, because of the favorable conditions, said owner Keith Anderson. "We are driven by the weather," he said.

The only downside? Anderson is hearing from suppliers that the price of roast beef will rise because the national drought has hurt the corn crop.

Put a ring on it

Couples book the Buffalo & Erie County Botanical Gardens because they want to get married in the lush outdoor gardens, and this summer the weather cooperated to an unusual degree.

The gardens, which can host as many as four weddings each weekend, didn't have to move a ceremony inside until last Saturday afternoon, and it managed to hold that evening's ceremony outside after the weather cleared up, said Michelle Slawiak, director for weddings and special events.

Life's a beach

Mickey Rat's Beach Club in Angola had its best beach attendance in a decade, while business at the nightclub and at Captain Kidds restaurant was up 30 percent over 2011, said owner Richi Alberts.

"People were more relaxed and hanging around. A lot happier. And traveling longer distances," Alberts said.

Good apples

You may have heard about how this spring's weirdly warm weather followed by frost ruined the apple crop this season.

While that's true, this summer's hot weather and low precipitation have made for some extra sweet apples, said Molly Golden of the New York Apple Association.

"It's much better quality flavor-wise," Golden said. "The rain and wetness dilutes the flavor."

No wrath for grapes

The bright shiny days and searing heat of this summer were especially welcomed by grape growers in the Finger Lakes, Chautauqua and Niagara counties and over in Ontario.

"It made for really concentrated grapes," said Curtis Fielding, general manager at Fielding Estate Winery in Ontario. And Fielding should know. He's been crowned Ontario's Grape King of 2012.

Even the dry conditions, which caused havoc on other crops, were good for the grapes. "They grow very well with no rain," he said. "We had the perfect amount of rain at the end of the summer. It gave them a really good drink."



Someone call Batman

The early spring and hot summer seemed to have triggered a population boom among bats, rats, raccoons, mosquitoes and other critters, and that's also meant a sharp increase in the number of animals testing positive for rabies, said Tripi.

In all of last year, the Erie County Department of Health investigated 646 encounters with bats, with 382 people receiving post-exposure rabies shots. Nine bats tested positive.

So far this year, the department has investigated 875, and 453 people received shots. Seventeen bats tested positive, and an additional 18 animals have tested positive for rabies, too.

Blood-sicle, anyone?

With so few rainy days, the Buffalo Zoo enjoyed a banner year for attendance. About 50,000 more people visited the zoo this year compared with last year at this time, said Donna M. Fernandes, the zoo's president and chief executive officer.

The animals seemed to take the hot weather in stride, Fernandes said, although on the worst days, many zoo creatures took advantage of their air-conditioned indoor shelters.

Some furry beasts cooled off with hoses turned to the fine mist setting. Specialty treats were given out, too, including frozen fish for the polar bears and frozen chunks of blood and meat for the big cats to sink their teeth into.

Hot dates in a cool theater

Lynn Kinsella, owner of the air-conditioned Aurora Theatre in East Aurora, said moviegoers came in droves, mostly at night.

While the theater usually screens its last film at 8:30 p.m., it pushed it to 9 p.m. and was pleased to see how many people showed up. "People couldn't sleep. It was hot," she said.

Not easy being green

The grass wasn't greener on any side of Western New York this summer as lawns turned brown and crunchy in the sweltering heat and lack of rain.

But Bob Funk, president of Funk Lawn Care, says this doesn't mean your lawn is dead. He explained this area has what are considered cool-season grasses, which thrive in temperatures of about 65 to 75. Anything above, and "they start going dormant," Funk said.

Many people gave up on their lawns, but he recommends watering even once every other week to keep the plants alive.

He also recommended people seed and fertilize their lawns in the fall. "Now is the time," he said. "Don't wait until spring."



Summer by the numbers



. Really hot: The warmest in 142 years of record-keeping with an average temperature of 69.8 degrees.



. Really dry: The driest in 76 years and the third-driest on record; there were 4.79 inches of rainfall.

. Mean temperature for August: 71.7 degrees, 2.1 degrees above normal (the month set three daily record highs).

. Rainfall for August: 1.24 inches, 2.02 inches below normal.

. Mean temperature for July: 75.5, 4.4 degrees above normal (28 days at or above 80 degrees and five days above 90).

. Rainfall for July: 0.87 inches, 2.36 inches below normal.

. Mean temperature for June: 68.2, 1.9 degrees above normal.

. Rainfall for June: 2.68 inches, 0.98 inches below normal. (1.95 inches recorded in the first three days).



Source: National Weather Service



email: mbecker@buffnews.com and swatson@buffnews.com