Temperature departure Precip percent of normal Snow Cover (Jan 8) Drought Monitor

Midwest Weekly Highlights - January 1-8, 2006

Unseasonably warm weather began the New Year and recordhigh temperatures were broken across parts of Indiana, Kentucky, andMissouri.  New record high temperatures were set on January2nd in thefollowing locations (with previous record high and year in parenthesis):

Joplin, MO 75°F (69°F, 2005)
Lexington, KY 65°F (64°F, 2000)
Bowling Green, KY 73°F (72°F, 1907)
Indianapolis, IN 65°F (63°F, 2004)

In addition, the Marquette, MI National Weather ServiceOfficereported a new record high minimum on January 4th.  The lowtemperature on January 4th was 29°F, which broke the previousrecord high minimum temperature of 25°F set in 1963 and 1997. Further south, in the Chicago area, the period December 22, 2005to January 5, 2005, sawdaily high temperatures at or above 35°F. While notunusually warm, the string of days that have exceeded 35°F isremarkable, and has only been done twice since official record keepingbegan in 1871: Dec.22 - Jan. 5 1877-1878, and again in 1907-1908. In LaCrosse, WI, the temperature failed to drop below30°Ffrom December 25, 2005 to January 5, 2006, while the average high and lowtemperatures are 25°F and 7°F respectively. Thisanomalously warm weather is reflected in the averagetemperatures across the region for the first week of January (Figure 1). Average daily mean temperatures this week rangedfrom 22°F to 24°F above normal in northwestern Minnesota to 4°Fto 8°F above normal in southeast Ohio and eastern Kentucky.  

Precipitation for theweek was below normal across parts of the Midwest, while muchof Wisconsin and Michigan were significantly above normal (Figure 2). On account of the warmer than averagetemperatures, precipitation this week was mainly in the form ofrain, and the snowcover that was across southern Wisconsin and central Michiganduring the first part ofthe week had considerably retreated, leaving little in the way of snowcover across the Midwest (Figure 3). With a continuation of below normal precipitation over asignificant portion of the region, there was little change inthedrought status across the Midwest this week (Figure 4). In Missouri, many small streams, creeks, and larger riverscontinue to fall as a lack of precipitation across the areaexacerbated the existing drought conditions and resulted in anexpansion of the drought into southwest Missouri.  In fact,surface water and water table levels in most locations in southwestMissouri are below normal, with some at record low levels.  Sincethe first of the year, extreme southwest Missouri has seen littleto zero precipitation, and this resulted in several grass and brushfires, which quickly raged out of control until fire crews could safelyextinguish them.

Severe WeatherStrikes Early

On January 2, 2006, a strong storm system (Figure 5)moved through the lower Midwest region sparking severethunderstorms and several tornadoes (Figure 6). Thunderstorms erupted over Missouri early in the morninghours,and became severe as they moved toward the greater St. Louis, MO area(Figure7).  Regional radar images reveala squall line developing near the Mississippi river and then traversingthrough Illinois, Indiana, and Kentucky by afternoon (Figure 8, Figure9).  At approximately 4:45am CST, a tornado toucheddownin Reynolds County, MO, uprooting trees, ripping roofs off of homes,and flipping several trailers (Figure 10). By 7:35am, the stormshad moved into central Illinois, where a microburst destroyed a barnand downed several power lines along aneight mile swath of damage in Sangamon County, IL near the town ofChatham (Figure11). Later that same day, just after 2:45pm CST,atornado was reported in Elizabethtown, KY, destroying at least twobuildings at the American Synthetic Rubber Co.  In JeffersonCounty, KY, an F1 tornado caused significantdamage to multiple homes, a Moose Lodge, and a large, well-constructedbarn of 73 years.  Other residents in Jefferson Countywitnesseddowned power lines,flagpoles, trees, and several semi-trailers had flipped androlled.  Fortunately, there were no deaths or injuries fromthistornado.  In Lincoln County, KY, one person was injured when an F2tornado roared just south of the town of McKinney in the west centralpart of the county.  Other funnel clouds were reported inBullitt County, KY but no damage was reported (Figure 12). TheNationalWeather Service inLouisville, KY has developed acomprehensive web page detailing the damage and storm surveys from allsix tornadoes across central Kentucky (January2, 2006 Storms Overview).

The same storm system brought pea-sized hail as far north as Muskegon,MI and residents in the Chicago area were pelted with a mixture ofrain, sleet, and hail, causing an estimated 11,500 power outages anddelayingtravelers atO'Hare International Airport an average of 90 minutes.  Inaddition, nearly 80 flights were canceled due to the stormy andunusual early January weather.

Persistent Cloud Cover Results in Near Record Gloomy Conditions

An extended period of low clouds, fog, and drizzleandflurries made headlines this week across the northern portions of theMidwest (Figure 13). Inthe greater Minneapolis, MN area, the period of December 24, 2005 toJanuary 4, 2006 was the 3rd gloomiest twelve day stretch since solarradiation records began at the University of Minnesota campus in 1963. At the National Weather Service Office in Chanhassen, MN,zerominutes of sunshine were recorded for a period of eight consecutivedays from December 24, 2005 to December 31, 2005, and again fromJanuary 2, 2006 to January 5, 2006.  The cloud cover wasexpansiveacross the Midwest, and from December 24, 2005 to January 5, 2006,Chicago's Midway Airport reported only 435 minutes of sunshine out of apossible 7,174 minutes, roughly just seven hours of sunlight in twoweeks time.  Further north, in Duluth, MN, save for a fewhours ofsunshine on December 25, 2005, northern Minnesota and northernWisconsinhave been cloudy since December 23, 2005, and as of January 6, 2006,cloudy conditions have persisted across this area for a stretch oftwelve consecutive days, which is the longest cloudy streak since cloudcover records began at the Duluth National Weather Service Office in1990.  On January 6, 2006, in southeastern Wisconsin,Milwaukee tied for the most consecutive number of days without sunshineat fourteen, and Madison, WI also had fourteen consecutive days withoutsunshine, tying the record set in April 1992.  Fortunately,sunshine broke through the thick cloud deck on January 7-8, ending thegloomy streak.

Cold AirTries to Make a Comeback...but the Warm Air Holds Firm

A cold front passed through the region on Wednesday, January 4th,bringing with it no more than light precipitation across northernMinnesota and the upper peninsula of Michigan (Figure 14). Lakeeffect snows fell, primarily on the light side, in the wake of thepassage of the cold front, and temperatures fell back to near normalfor this time of year (Figure 15).  However, another wave of low pressuremoving out of the Great Plains brought a return of mild airnorthward on Saturday, January 7 (Figure 16). This surge of warmer air brought a prolonged area offreezing drizzle to portions of central lower Michigan.  Numerouscar accidents occurred around the Ann Arbor, MI area due to the icyroads.  An Ann Arbor firefighter was critically injured when shewas struck by a pickup truck while she was assisting other motoristswho had skidded off the road.  One woman was ejected from her caras she collided with another vehicle in a rollover accident.  Inseparate incident, a young woman was killed near Mason, MI when hersport utility vehicle rolled over.  Near Grand Rapids, MI, apolice officer witnessed six additional accidents while he wasassisting a motorist who had spun out of control.  Conditionsbecame so dangerous across area roadways that portions of I-94, I-69,US-23, and M-14 were closed for a period of several hours until salttrucks could sufficiently alleviate the icing situation.  OnSunday, January 8, gusty southerly winds associated with an area ofdeepening low pressure (Figure 17) helped boost temperatures and record high temperatures were set atthe following locations:

Bowling Green, KY 69°F (68°F, 1907)
West Plains, MO 71°F (68°F, 2003)
Rolla, MO 69°F (68°F, 2003)

In addition, at Paducah, KY, a new record high minimumof 43°F was set on January 8, breaking the old record highminimum of 40°F set in 1952.  Will this warmweather linger into the second week of January?  Find out innext week's edition of the Midwest Climate Watch.


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