February temperatures were generally above normal across the Midwest
(Figure 1). Though there were a couple cold spells in the first half of the month, most days were warm, especially in the latter half of the month. Temperatures ranged from near normal in eastern Kentucky and northeast Minnesota, up to 5°F above normal along the western edge of the region. Michigan ranked among the warmest 10% for the month (1895 to 2016 period of record), while 7 more states ranked among the warmest 25%, leaving only Kentucky outside the warmest 25%.
February precipitation was a mix of above and below normal totals across the region (Figure 2). Dry conditions, with less than half of normal precipitation for the month, extended through much of Missouri, eastern Iowa, central and northern Illinois, and southern Wisconsin. Areas with well above normal precipitation, over 150% of normal, included northwest Iowa, along the shores of the Great Lakes, eastern Kentucky, and the eastern Ohio River valley. Snowfall for the month
(Figure 3) was above normal along three swaths, from western Iowa to Upper Michigan, from St. Louis to southern Michigan, and from central Kentucky to southern Ohio. Snowfall was below normal in the rest of the region.
Drought Free in 2016
The Midwest remained drought free for the first nine weeks of 2016. As of the March 1 US Drought Monitor (Figure 4), less than 1% of the region was even classified as abnormally dry. The dry February in Missouri led to grassland fires in the state. However, heavy rains in late December provided sufficient moisture to keep drought at bay through early 2016.
Snow Storms and Blizzards
Snow storms and blizzards moved across the region in February. The first storm was on the 1st through the 3rd
(Figure 5), dropping heavy snow from Iowa to Upper Michigan. Blizzard conditions in northwest Iowa and southern Minnesota on the 7th and 8th (Figure 6) were due to strong winds blowing the existing snow as there were light accumulations during the storm. On the 24th and 25th
(Figure 7), blizzard conditions hit Illinois and Indiana while heavy snow accumulated in southern Michigan. As the month ended (Figure 8), a storm brought snow to the Iowa-Minnesota border and then headed eastward as the calendar switched to March.
Two widespread wind events affected the Midwest in the latter half of February. On the 19th, wind gusted to over 50 mph over a large part of the region. The high winds in Chicago led to broken windows and evacuations at buildings in the downtown area. Another wind event on the 29th caused damage in multiple states including downed power poles and toppled trucks on Midwest interstate highways.
Warm and Wet Winter
The Midwest had a warm and wet winter season (December to February). Temperatures were well above normal across the region
(Figure 9), ranking as the 5th warmest on record (1895-2016) for the Midwest. All nine states also ranked among the warmest in their respective histories, each ranking between 3rd and 7th. Precipitation totals were above normal (Figure 10) as well, the regional values ranked as the 6th wettest winter on record. Iowa set a new record for wettest winter (1895-2016) while Wisconsin (2nd), Missouri (8th), Michigan (tied 9th), and Illinois (11th) also ranked among the wettest 10% for their statewide winter totals. Snowfall
(Figure 11) for the season-to-date (July to February) was below normal across most of the Midwest. Only western Iowa and much of Kentucky had above normal snow. Totals in northern Michigan were 1 to 4 feet below normal for the season (Figure 12) and totals in southwest Missouri failed to reach 25% of normal (Figure 13).