The "Dust Bowl" years of 1930-36 brought some of the hottest summers on record to the United States, especially across the Plains, Upper Midwest and Great Lake States. For the Upper Mississippi River Valley, the first few weeks of July 1936 provided the hottest temperatures of that period, including many all-time record highs the string of hot, dry days was also deadly. Nationally, around 5000 deaths were associated with the heat wave. In La Crosse, WI, there were 14 consecutive days (July 5th-18th) where the high temperature was 90 degrees or greater, and 9 days that were at or above 100°F. Six record July temperatures set during this time still stand, including the hottest day on record with 108°F on the 14th. The average high temperature for La Crosse during this stretch of extreme heat was 101°F. Several factors led to the deadly heat of July 1936; A series of droughts affected the U.S. during the early 1930s. The lack of rain parched the earth and killed vegetation, especially across the Plains states. Poor farming techniques across the Plains furthered the impact of the drought, with lush wheat fields becoming barren waste lands. Without the vegetation and soil moisture, the Plains acted as a furnace. The climate of that region took on desert qualities, accentuating its capacity to produce heat. On the night of July 8th, 1936 temperatures across most of the state did not drop below 90, setting records for the highest, low temperatures. Indicative of summer heat and dryness impact on farming was a report from near Erie PA where it was reported that 40 acres produced only 1 load of hay all summer when a normal year can produce 7-10 loads.
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