Cool weather makes for ‘tough summer’ at area pools

August 18, 2014
The unusually cool weather, with temperatures barely reaching into the 70s on some days the past several weeks, has kept local swimming pools like Washington Park pool practically empty when they are normally crowded in August before students return to schools. Despite the appearance of this photo, it has been an overall good year for the Washington pool. - Jim McNutt / Observer-Reporter Order a Print

The summer’s cooler-than-normal temperatures dampened the spirits of swimmers and put a chill on many area pools, although recent upgrades to Washington Park Pool have helped it to buck this season’s trend.

“Although the weather was rainy and cool at times, attendance is better overall than last season,” Washington Councilman Terry Faust said. “The income, at this time, has already exceeded last year’s total receipts at the pool.”

Faust, who oversees the city’s parks department, attributed the boost in attendance and revenue this year to the renovation of the Olympic-sized pool, construction of a shelter and expanded evening hours. This season was a welcome surprise for city officials who pushed improvements at Washington Park and its pool for several years.

However, other area pools have not been so lucky, with temperatures trending lower than usual in July and August.

“We’ve had a few very nice days, but not many,” said Betty Abel, owner of Mineral Beach swimming pool. “It was a tough summer.”

She said there have been more than a few days when cooler temperatures and the threat of rain pushed away swimmers and prompted her to close the pool in Union Township early. The small attendance doesn’t make it economical for her to stay open, she said, and forces her to send the lifeguards and kitchen staff home.

“We had a few very beautiful, humid days close to 90, but just not enough,” Abel said. “It has affected the business.”

Canonsburg Town Park pool manager Jim Reynolds isn’t surprised by lower attendance figures across the area. He said the pool in Canonsburg has sold about half as many seasonal passes as it typically does, and its daily “walk-in” attendance also is lower than expected.

“I’m pretty sure it’s been universal,” Reynolds said. “When the weather gets to 72 degrees, people are not going to the pool. It’s comfortable if people want to sit on their porch, but they don’t want to come here to the pool.”

Reynolds pointed to the threat of rain Monday and temperatures hovering in the high 70s as the reason for another small crowd at the pool, with only eight swimmers splashing around shortly before noon.

It is the first time in a decade the thermometer has not hit 90 degrees once in Western Pennsylvania, according to National Weather Service statistics.

In comparison, there were five days that hit at least 90 degrees last year and 15 days in 2012.

“When you don’t get those days, you don’t get that income,” Reynolds said. “I can’t blame people. This water’s cold.”

The average temperatures in May and June were nearly 2 degrees warmer than normal years, but it has dipped in the following two months.

In July, the temperature was 2.1 degrees below average, and dropped 3.6 degrees colder than usual through the first three weeks of August.

“July was the big surprise, and it’s continued on through August,” National Weather Service meteorologist Bob Coblentz said.

Even with the weather, some other pools in the area have seen steady attendance, including Carmichaels Pool at Wana B Park in Greene County. Danielle McClelland, the pool’s head guard, said they’re still getting crowds when the weather is nice, but they’ve been forced to close the pool more often this year because of rain and storms.

“The weather has been iffy for us, so we’ve been closed more than in the past,” she said. “When we are open, people flock here, but the weather has had a hit, as expected.”

Mike Jones has been a news reporter since 2005, covering crime, state and municipal government, education and energy. In addition to working at the Observer-Reporter, he also has spent time at the Charleston (W.Va.) Daily Mail and He holds a journalism degree from West Virginia University.

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