Carla Kolbe - Angela Duross, left, Juliana Neri and Alana McNulty jump into the Sacandaga River on July 5 at Captain Dan’s Boat Jam, while Skyler’s Dream Team and the Mansionites played a floating concert.
By JESSICA NICOSIA
For the Express
Last month’s heat wave may have tried the patience of local residents, but it has also resulted in a bump in tourism for the Adirondacks and surrounding regions. Many local industries and small businesses depend on the hot, dry weather to drive downstate residents to the cool, shaded lakes and forests.
But, as some celebrate the increase in tourism, others are worried about the risks of prolonged dry heat.
While the average temperature this summer has equalled out to near normal, there have been more extreme high temperatures than usual. And those high temps may return this weekend.
“We’ve been above normal,” said Steve DiRienzo, meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Albany. “At the Albany Airport we usually average about 10 days per year of 90 or above. We have already had 10 days, maybe 11 days.”
Temperatures in the 80s and 90s have brought more customers to Adirondack businesses built for summertime leisure.
“We’re up about 33 percent over last summer at this time,” said Dan Morton, the owner of Adirondack Tubing Adventures in Lake Luzerne. “The big difference came in June where temperatures were a lot warmer than usual. Normally we wouldn’t open during the week, but because the weather was so nice we opened during the week.”
Douglas Azaert — owner of Wild Waters Outdoor Center Whitewater Rafting in Lake Luzerne — agrees that the hot, dry weather is a boon for his business. Local residents take part in leisure activities more often during oppressive heat, and tourists staying in hotels and campgrounds are always trying to find new ways to keep cool during the day.
“A lot of our campground use is really reflective of the weather when we have nice weekends like we have been having,” said Department of Environmental Conservation Region 5 Spokesman David Winchell. “If it’s not raining, nice sunny weather, we’ll see increased camping. If it’s hotter, we’ll see increased usage of beach-front areas.”
Although the temperatures in June were a little above average, with extreme heat balanced by chilly days, July was hotter than usual. The normal temperature for July is 71.8 degrees at the Albany Airport, but it averaged around 75, according to DiRienzo.
“We had a better than average Fourth of July week, the entire week was strong,” said Director of Economic Development and Tourism for Hamilton County Ann Melious. “Whenever things are really hot and muggy and nasty in places like New York City and New Jersey, we see a bump in tourism here, because it’s cooler here — we’ve got altitude, more trees and less asphalt.”
“We’ve had great weather,” said Katie Wojdyla, director of marketing at Enchanted Forest Water Safari in Old Forge. “It’s definitely impacting business. We’re holding our own compared to last year. The bulk of our business is toward the end of July and August. We’re hoping that if the weather continues, we’ll be ahead of last year.”
The heat is helpful to the local economy for now, but tides could turn if it continues for too long. According to the National Weather Service website, heat is the top weather-related killer in the United States — more than floods, lightning, tornadoes and hurricanes combined.
“We put out a high fire danger warning and typically that doesn’t happen until late August,” said Winchell. “Our fire season has come a few weeks early. As far as danger from the heat, we do seem to have an increased number of rescues for people getting dehydrated hiking mountains.”
DiRienzo said there is also a risk of drought with the recent weather. Although there is a localized risk every summer, it is only about three times a decade that there is a month of high temperatures and little rain across such a large area.
July, however, did not crack the top 10 list of the warmest Julys on record. Most of the state’s members of the top 10 were in the 1800s, with the hottest being in 1868 with an average temperature of 79.7. The only two in the 20th century were 1921 and 1955. To get into the top 10 in terms of temperature, July would have needed to average 76.5 degrees.