For the same period this year: Statewide, temperatures averaged below normal and rainfall was way up — too much in some parts of the state that suffered late spring floods. “We have farmers who lost their corn crop to the drought last year, and this year had their crop washed out,” said Katherine Dutro of the Indiana Farm Bureau.
Last year, the mercury hit triple digits in the state’s capital city on July 4. This year’s forecast puts the temperatures in the mild 70s.
Another telling indicator of how different this summer is from last year: Requests to the State Fire Marshal’s office from retailers to sell fireworks are up by almost 400 percent, from 243 in 2012 to more than 840 this year.
Also up this year: the number of visitors to the state parks. The drought and heat took a big toll on attendance last summer at the state-owned properties that attract campers, hikers and other outdoor recreation lovers.
“When it’s too hot to sleep in a tent and you can’t light a campfire, it’s going to have an impact,” said Phil Bloom, spokesman for the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.
The DNR witnessed another effect of the drought: A spike in deer deaths last summer. The lack of rain resulted in stagnant, non-flowing water holes that attracted virus-carrying, biting flies that infected deer with epizootic hemorrhagic disease, known as EHD. In 2011, the EHD virus was detected in only 9 Indiana counties. Last summer, its presence was confirmed in 29 counties and signs of it were reported in another 36 counties.
Bloom said Mother Nature saw some upside to the drought: When a normally swampy area at Pokagan State Park dried up, park naturalists found a native species, burr marigold, start to blossom for the first time in decades. And when the pesky, invasive Asian carp got caught in some backwaters of the Wabash River due to the drought, “it made for some good eating for the raccoons,” Bloom said.