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Midwest Weekly Highlights - January 22-31, 2015

Dry End to the Month

Drier than normal conditions continued across most of the Midwest to end the month of January.  Little precipitation fell throughout Minnesota during the period (Figure 1).  The most precipitation fell over Kentucky and Ohio.   Some of the precipitation in Kentucky and Ohio fell as snow (Figure 2) behind a developing storm on the east coast.  Otherwise, little snowfall was seen in other areas of the Midwest except for in lake effect areas, as no major storms moved through the region until the storm that began on January 31.  Well below normal precipitation was seen in southern parts of Missouri, Illinois and Indiana as well as southern Michigan (Figure 3).  This continues the trend of a dry winter (Figure 4), as most of the region has seen below normal precipitation since November 1, 2014.

Staying Warm

Above normal temperatures continued across the western half of the region (Figure 5).  Well above normal temperatures were seen in Minnesota and Iowa as a ridge of high pressure funneled in warmer air from the south.  Portions of northwest Minnesota were as much as 14°F above normal for the period while most of Iowa and Wisconsin were 7-12°F above normal.  Temperatures moderated moving further east, as Illinois was mostly 3-7°F above normal with Indiana mainly near to 4°F above normal.  Near to slightly below normal temperatures were seem throughout most of Kentucky, Ohio and Lower Michigan. Temperatures 2-5°F below normal were seen along Lake Huron and Lake Erie.

Abnormally Dry Conditions Foster Drought Worries

The National Drought Mitigation Center added more area to the abnormal dry category (Figure 6) in the Midwest as mainly dry conditions continued through January 30th.  The jury is still out on whether areas in Iowa, Missouri and Illinois will remain in the abnormally dry category after the significant snowfall event on January 31-February 2.  Little precipitation fell in Minnesota to round out the month which may further stress moderate drought conditions in the western parts of the state.  Significant precipitation will be needed in Kentucky to lessen the effects of moderate drought in the western half of the state.

Freezing Rain/Drizzle Causes Travel Headaches

On January 26th, freezing drizzle developed over northeast and east Central Illinois.  Several car accidents were reported due to ice covered roads.

Heavy Snow and Blizzard January 31-February 2

On January 31-February 2, a moisture rich system brought heavy snow to the Midwest (Figure 7) after dumping large amounts of rain on the Southwestern U.S.  Snowfall amounts of 6-12 inches were common throughout Iowa, northern Missouri and northern Illinois.  The hardest hit areas were west of Lake Michigan as the lake enhanced snowfall rates in an already good environment for heavy snowfall.  Snowfall totals from extreme southeastern Wisconsin into northeast Illinois and northwest Indiana were in the 12-20 inch range.  A blizzard warning was put into effect for the Chicago area on the 1st as winds gusted over 35 mph with heavy snow.  Storm total snowfall of 19.3 inches was recorded at O’Hare with 19.2 inches recorded at Midway in Chicago.  The snowfall total at O’Hare was ranked as the fifth highest storm total snowfall total for Chicago. The 16.2 inches that fell on February 1 was the highest total for any February day in Chicago and was the fourth highest single day snowfall for the city all time. 

This storm system brought a large amount of precipitation to the region.  Areas in Iowa and Missouri through southern Michigan received more than an inch of liquid precipitation (Figure 8).  When including February 1-2 into this week’s period, (Figure 9) above normal precipitation spreads from Iowa and northern Missouri through Michigan and Ohio compared to mainly near to below normal precipitation through January 31 (Figure 3).  This storm may alleviate abnormally dry conditions across the Central Midwest.


The National Weather Service-Chicago also contributed to this report.