When the autumn equinox bids farewell to summer today, millions of scorched Americans likely will be glad to see it go.

It was a bummer summer, in the words of one headline writer, a season that saw millions of dollars lost in dying crops, rivers and reservoirs dry up and air conditioning bills go through the roof.According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, only the Dust Bowl of the 1930s raised the nation's average temperature to higher levels than this summer.

Some communities may take pride in setting records for greatest average heat - or most 90 degree days or least rain.

But that doesn't mean many want to see a return of the record-setting misery anytime soon.

The Agriculture Department estimates that heat coupled with extraordinary dryness cut grain production by 31 percent, threatening many farmers with financial disaster.

And the U.S. Geological Survey noted that low water levels curtailed irrigation and river traffic and raised pollution levels in some areas.

Wildfires swept large areas, discouraging tourists, scorching homes and forests.

And even something as simple as keeping cool had a significant impact, with the cost of running air conditioners pushing the national electric bill up to $14.4 billion, some $746 million more than it would have been in normal summer weather.

National statistics, though, obscure the impact of the hot, dry season, which differed in degree and response from town to town, but which was bad news nearly everywhere.

From Minneapolis to Baltimore to Cheyenne the summer of 1988 was the hottest in local climate records going back nearly 40 years.

And by that same standard, the drought played to record levels in Peoria and Pittsburgh, Billings, Mont., and Asheville, N.C.

"Abnormally hot weather during much of June-August in the Great Basin, southern Intermountain Region, northern halves of the Rockies and Great Plains and Midwest sent seasonal temperatures averaging more than 4 degrees Fahrenheit above normal," the federal Climate Analysis Center said.

The summer's greatest heat focused on the region from central Montana and northern Utah eastward to lower Michigan.