Midwest Overview - March 2009
A Stormy March
March was a stormy month for parts of the Midwest, and a dry one for other portions of the region. The storm tracks this month were primarily from southwest to northeast just north of the Ohio River, and from central Kansas to northern Wisconsin. This resulted in two distinct area of heavy precipitation during the month (Figure 1). One extended from western Missouri through southeastern Iowa, northern Illinois, southern Wisconsin, and northern Indiana, where precipitation was 150 to 200 percent of normal. The second area of heavy precipitation covered the northern three quarters of Minnesota, reaching 300 to 400 percent of normal in far northern Minnesota. Much of the precipitation in Minnesota fell as snow during the month, and snowfall was 100 to 200 percent of normal across the northwestern half of the state (Figure 2). Snowfall was also above normal across southwestern Missouri, but that was the result of a storm the started on February 28 and continued into March 1.
Records for March monthly precipitation were set at Peoria, IL 7.49 inches, Madison, WI 6.19 inches, and International Falls, Minnesota 3.75 inches. A new March snowfall record was also set at International Falls with 30.1 inches. At the end of March 124.2 inches of snow had fallen at International Falls, MN for the 2008-2009 season, breaking the old record of 116.0 inches set in 1995-1996. In Iowa, the statewide average of snow was 1.4 inches (3.6 cm), making this the least snowy March since 1997 and ranks 15th least snow for the month among 122 years of records.
Less than normal precipitation fell from southeast Missouri to the southern two thirds of Ohio and also from northwest Iowa to northern Michigan. Drought conditions continued in southeast Minnesota, northern Wisconsin, and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan while abnormally dry conditions emerged in southern Ohio.
Roller Coaster Temperatures
March temperatures were 2°F to 4°F above normal in southeastern Missouri, southern and central Illinois, Indiana, and most of Ohio (Figure 3). In northwest Minnesota, temperatures were 2°F to 6°F colder than normal. Average temperatures were within 2°F of normal across the rest of the region. Although the average temperatures were near normal for much of the region, there were big swings in temperature throughout the month. Record cold temperatures on the first couple days of March, 10-20°F below normal on the 2nd, gave way to record warmth, up to 25°F above normal on the 6th, within the week. All nine states had a station set a record low temperature during the first four days of the month. Record high temperatures were set on March 5-10 in every state except Minnesota, which set record highs later in the month. The temperature swings continued with the whole region shifting back and forth between cold and warm several times. Examples of the temperature swings are Jackson, KY and International Falls, MN. Jackson set a record low of 13°F on March 2 and a record high of 77°F on March 10. International Falls topped that with a swing from a record low of -28°F on March 12 to a record high of 53°F just two days later on March 14.
River levels remained high during most of March in the central Midwest and in western Minnesota (Figure 4). The Red River reached a record crest of 40.82 feet on March 28 at Fargo, ND. Although the river levels were dropping as the month closed, major flood conditions continued and were expected to continue for the foreseeable future. Communities in western Minnesota and eastern North Dakota continued their battle against the flood. During the month major flooding also occurred on the Illinois River, and moderate to major flooding occurred on the Kankakee River in Indiana. Minor to moderate flooding also occurred on rivers in southern Wisconsin and northern Indiana during the month.
Severe thunderstorms occurred across much of the Midwest this month. The southern part of the region experienced the brunt of the severe weather during the month. Tornadoes occurred on March 8 in Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio. Iowa was hit by five tornadoes on March 23. March 24 brought 2.75 inch hail to Missouri. Severe thunderstorms and associated wind damage also occurred on these days. The strongest reported tornado produced EF3 damage in western Kentucky on March 28.
For more details on weather and climate events during March 2009, click on the individual weekly report links on the upper right.