Midwest Overview - January 2009
Cold and Snowy
Much of the Midwest began the month with mild weather, with temperatures climbing to 5°F above normal in southern portions of the region the first week. However, the mild weather didn't last, and by the second week of January the entire Midwest was headed into the deep freeze. Frequent and fast-moving storm systems traveling from northwest to southeast added to the snow cover across the northern half of the Midwest, while the southern half remained drier than normal until the last week of the month.
Temperatures in January ranged from slightly below normal in western Missouri to 6°F to more than 8°F below normal in the northeastern half of the Midwest (Figure 1). The middle of the month saw the coldest weather in more than 10 years for much of the Midwest. The coldest period was from January 14-17, when average daily temperatures ranged from less than -15°F in northern Minnesota to the low 20s in southern Missouri (Figure 2). This was, of course, much below normal, ranging from 24°F below normal in the central Midwest to 10°F below normal in southern Missouri (Figure 3). Hundreds of temperature records were set across the region during this period, many dating back to 1977. Low temperatures of -40°F occurred several days in a row across northeastern Minnesota, with the coldest reading -48°F at Babbitt, MN on the morning of January 15. Low temperatures in the -30s were recorded as far south as central Iowa and northwestern Illinois. The cold weather was responsible for 71 water main breaks during the month in Des Moines, IA. The Des Moines Water Works reported this was the most breaks since 1994, when there were 75.
Based on preliminary January temperature data, this was the 10th coldest January on record for Michigan, the 11th coldest in Wisconsin, and the 13th coldest for Indiana and Ohio. It was the 20th coldest in Iowa, and the 22nd coldest for both Minnesota and Illinois.
A Dry Month, but Plenty of Snow
As a whole, the Midwest experienced a dry January. Precipitation ranged from less than 10 percent of normal in western Missouri to 150 percent of normal in eastern Kentucky and in the western U. P. of Michigan (Figure 4). However, until the storm of January 26-29, the only areas with normal to above normal precipitation were the Michigan U. P., western Iowa, and extreme eastern Kentucky (Figure 5). The late January storm brought significant precipitation to an area from the Missouri Ozarks through the Ohio Valley. More than three inches of rain fell on most of Kentucky, with more than 5 inches in the extreme south.
January snowfall was normal to much above normal from Iowa eastward through Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio, and from southeastern Missouri east-northeast along the Ohio River (Figure 6). Snowfall was also as much as 200 percent of normal in far northern Minnesota and in the Michigan U. P. In Iowa, the Des Moines International Airport reported at mid-month that they already had exceeded their seasonal budget for de-icing solution having dealt with six freezing rain events in December and two up until that point in January. The snow in the southern Midwest was the result of the January 26-29 storm, which left behind a large area of 3 to 8 inches of snow, with 12 to 16 inches in an area from southeastern Illinois through central Indiana. The storm also produced a large swath of freezing rain, as much as 1.5 inches in some areas, that caused extensive damage and knocked out power to almost a million customers in the Midwest. The worst of the damage was in Kentucky. Total ice accumulations greater than 1” were common along a line from Paducah to Lexington, which is where the majority of damage to trees and power lines occurred. An estimated 700,000 customers lost power in Kentucky alone.
At the end of the month snow covered most of the Midwest with the exception of western Missouri and southern Kentucky (Figure 7).
For more details on weather and climate events during January 2009, click on the individual weekly report links on the upper right.