Louisville's place in the world of weather
First of all, what is Louisville, anyway? Is it the southern Midwest or the northern South? This is a question that has persisted as long as the city has existed. When people think of the South, they imagine a never-ending summer filled with sultry days spent sipping mimosas on a wraparound porch. The Midwest brings thoughts of four distinct seasons, including a winter of blizzards and snowdrifts as high as your head – tempered, perhaps, with a cup of cocoa by the fireplace. Louisville enjoys the variety of all four seasons, but is happy enough to live without the big snows endured by her northern neighbors.
The highs and lows of Louisville
The city of Louisville – just across the Ohio River from Indiana – seems to have made a fairly good bargain with Mother Nature, overall. Part of the summer can be quite hot and humid, with high temperatures approaching the 90s but very seldom going over 100 degrees F. Winters are cold, but not unbearably so, with the lowest average temperature 27 degrees F during the month of January. And, as previously mentioned, there is very little snow accumulation to contend with.
About raining and flooding
Rain is another matter. Occasional heavy rains in the spring and summer, coupled with the proximity of the Ohio River and several smaller waterways, have resulted in flooding emergencies over the years, most notably the famous flood of 1937, during which the Ohio River rose to 30 feet above the flooding threshold and damaged large parts of the city. Fish were swimming in the lobby of the famous Brown Hotel, and the statue of Abraham Lincoln in the downtown public library was up to his knees in water. Since there were not enough boats to rescue everyone, an emergency team was assembled to build a pontoon bridge from whiskey barrels. 75,000 people escaped on this jerrybuilt bridge from downtown to safety in the Highlands district. Still, 90 people died in this terrible natural catastrophe. In order to ensure that a flood of this magnitude never happens again, a 29-foot flood wall was built around the city.
Flash floods do still occur from time to time, but nothing like the disaster of 1937. According to historian and flood expert Rick Bell, "If it would flood again, it would require twice as much rain in the same time period. It would have to be a perfect storm." This is reassuring, but not exactly a guarantee. Still, Louisville folks do feel a lot safer these days. Travelers to the city should, of course, bring along raincoats and/or umbrellas.
A breath of fresh air
The air quality of Louisville is generally quite good and getting better, largely because of its leadership in introducing alternative forms of energy. Scientists and businesses are working together to create an ever-healthier climate for the city's citizens, with important input from the University of Louisville and other institutions.
Everything is relative, except the love of ice cream
Of course, everyone experiences weather conditions differently, and one person's "perfect weather" can be far outside another person's comfort zone. Probably most people who live in the city would agree that there are summer days when Louisville's heat and humidity can become a real trial. Those are the days that Louisville folk are glad of the omnipresent ceiling fans, sweet iced tea and maybe a double-scoop ice cream cone from The Comfy Cow.