Temperature departure Precip percent of normal Snow Depth Jan 23.  Drought Monitor

Midwest Weekly Highlights - January 17-23, 2006

The third week of January has continued where the first and second weeks of January started...warm!  Anomalously warm weather and record high temperatures were one of the main stories this week, and is reflected in average temperature departures across the region for the third week of January (Figure 1).  Average daily mean temperatures this week ranged from near normal to 4°F above normal in north central Minnesota to 12°F above normal across Indiana and Ohio.  The remainder of the Midwest saw average daily temperature departures between 6°F and 10°F above normal.  

Precipitation for the week varied greatly across the Midwest with much of Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, and the upper peninsula of Michigan seeing generally less than 25% of the normal precipitation as the storm track remained across the Ohio Valley where extreme southern Illinois, southern Indiana, much of Kentucky, and Ohio were 200 to 400% above normal (Figure 2).  Due to the warmer than average temperatures again this week, precipitation was mainly in the form of rain, although each system brought some snowfall, and some of it was heavy across the central Midwest.  Snow cover at the end of the third week of January resembled a more "normal" winter map, thanks to several systems slicing through the Midwest this week (Figure 3).  With a continuation of below normal precipitation over a significant portion of the region, there was little change in the drought status across the Midwest this week (Figure 4).  

Wintry Precipitation Causes Headaches

A mixture of sleet, snow, and freezing rain blanketed parts of Michigan, Indiana, and Illinois on January 17, as a storm system lifted northeast through the region.  Freezing rain across the central part of lower Michigan resulted in the closing of schools and turned roads into parking lots as numerous traffic accidents were reported.  On U.S. 127, a double-bottom trailer carrying a load of scrap metal skidded off the icy covered road.  A rollever accident near U.S. 127 and M-46 resulted in minor injuries to a college student driver when a truck jackknifed, forcing the vehicle under the crumpled semi.  In Saginaw County, MI, there were 70 accidents when the freezing rain broke out near 5am local time.  Fortunately, a majority of them were nothing more than minor fender-benders, and no serious injuries were reported.  In Chicago, IL, as temperatures dropped below 30°F and light snow fell on the evening of the 17th, two separate accidents resulted in a total of 49 vehicles being involved, of which 15 people reported non-life-threatening injuries.  Once all was said and done, as much as eight inches of snow fell across Michigan on the 17th (Figure 5).  In addition, Bowling Green, KY set a new 24-hour precipitation record of 1.37", breaking the old record of 1.25" set in 1990, and London, KY also set a new 24-hour rainfall total of 1.84", breaking the old record of 1.05" set in 1994.  Gusty winds filtered in behind the departing system on January 18, and a few reports of non-thunderstorm wind damage were tallied in extreme eastern Kentucky.  Two trees were blown down near Hazard, KY, and multiple trees were blown over, along with power poles and power lines, near the town of Viper, KY.  

Another area of low pressure was quick on the heels, and this new system brought a surge of warm air northward and snow to the northeast of the surface center (Figure 6).  Snow, heavy at times, fell across parts of northeastern Minnesota and north central Wisconsin during the day on January 19.  Most locations received 2-4" of snow across this area (Figure 7, National Weather Service, Duluth, MN).  Meanwhile, strong southerly winds pumped warm and mild conditions (for January) into the Midwest and many locations eclipsed 50°F for their high temperatures (Figure 8).  A few new record maximums were broken on the 19th, including DeKalb, IL (55°F, previously 49°F in 1934), Moline, IL (58°F, previously 57°F in 1951), and Rockford, IL (53°F, previously 52°F in 1933).  In addition to the record maximums, three record high minimums were set across Missouri on the 19th: Joplin, MO (51°F, previously 47°F in 1951), Springfield, MO (48°F, previously 43°F in 1920), and Vichy, MO (46°F, previously 42°F in 1951).

On January 20-21, a strong winter storm took aim at the Midwest, bringing heavy snow, rain, thunderstorms, and record warmth.  An area of low pressure developed in the Texas panhandle and scooted northeast along a cold frontal boundary that had passed through the region early in the morning hours on the 20th (Figure 9).  A number of weather advisories were posted for this event, all the way from southern Missouri into northeast Ohio (Figure 10, Storm Prediction Center).  Heavy snow fell in parts of Iowa, Illinos, Wisconsin, and Michigan, and reduced visibilities to less than a quater of a mile in the heaviest snow bands.  The heavy snow caused over 100 flights to be canceled at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago, IL on the night of the 20th.  Unfortunately, an elderly woman was killed after the car she was riding in swerved into oncoming traffic in a Chicago suburb.  Total snowfall from this event varied from as little as an inch in western Illinois, to twelve inches in a northern suburb of Chicago (Figure 11, National Weather Service, Chicago, IL), to ten inches in central Michigan.  Snow also fell in northern Missouri, associated with the same fast-moving storm system, and dumped up to four inches of snow in the northwestern portions of the state (Figure 12, National Weather Service, Kansas City, MO).  Southern Wisconsin was not left out, as the storm system barreled on through the region, depositing as much as eight inches of snow along the Wisconsin/Illinois border (Figure 13, National Weather Service, Milwaukee, WI).  Before the snow began to fly, South Bend, IN, climbed to 52°F, which tied the record maximum for January 20 of 52°F set in 1974, and Vichy, MO climbed to 62°F, tying their record high for the 20th of 62°F set in 1954.  At Indianapolis, IN, a new record high minimum was established for January 20 of 51°F, which broke the previous warm minimum record of 47°F set back in 1974.  Finally, Forty Wayne, IN, set a new record high minimum on January 20 of 50°F, which breaks the old record high minimum temperature of 39°F set in 1921.

Yet another winter storm moved through the Midwest on January 22, soaking Kentucky and parts of southern Indiana and Ohio with rain (Figure 14).  The rain came down hard as it moved from southwest to northeast across the Midwest, dropping as much as three inches of rain in some locales.  Numerous reports of flooding were received across central and southern Kentucky, including water-covered roadways, rising creeks and streams, and at least one report of water rising above some bridges in central Kentucky.  The following figure illustrates how widespread the flooding was, as is indicated by each yellow highlighted county where flooding was reported (Figure 15).  At the Jackson, KY National Weather Service Office, the daily rainfall for the 22nd was 0.75", breaking the old record of 0.51" set back in 1998.

Record Breaking Warmth Continues

For the third consecutive week in January 2006, record or near-record breaking warmth has encompassed the Midwest.  In Evansville, IN, January 21 marked the 30th consecutive day with above average temperatures.  Paducah, KY, as of January 21, has recorded above average temperatures for 30 of the past 31 days.  Through January 20, was the warmest for any January on record.  The exceptionally warm temperatures can be found across much of the Midwest, and is, in part, to blame for a lack of snow in Green Bay, WI.  So far this month, as of January 23, Green Bay, WI has seen only 0.7" of snow, which is 11.2" below average.  If no snow falls for the remainder of the month, January 2006 will be the least snowiest January in Green Bay since record keeping began!  The least snowiest January on record was in 1897, when only 1.4" of snow fell.  In addition, the persistent lack of snow depth in Green Bay is also setting records.  As of January 23, Green Bay has recorded 21 consecutive days with one-inch or less of snow cover, ranking eighth since 1948.  The so-called "snow drought" has resulted in brown conditions across northeastern Wisconsin, which usually sees snow cover from December through March.

Across Minnesota, the record warmth is also holding strong.  In Rochester, MN, through January 20, the average daily temperature departure is a whopping 16.4°F above normal for the month of January.   This is the warmest period on record in Rochester for this twenty-day stretch, eclipsing the record previously set in 1990 when the average daily temperature was 15.4°F above normal for the first 20 days of January.  For the same period, in LaCrosse, WI, the average daily temperature departure was 15.9°F above normal, ranking second all-time behind only the winter of 1880, which had an average daily temperature departure of 19.6°F above normal.  Finally, through January 22, the average daily temperature departure in Quincy, IL was 13.9°F above normal, ranking as the warmest January on record (so far).  In St. Louis, MO, the average daily temperature departure was 13.2°F above normal, ranking third all-time, and in Columbia, MO, the average daily temperature departure through January 22 was 13.3°F above average, ranking second all-time.

Where is the cold air?  Will it spill into the Midwest during the last week of January?  Find out in next week's edition of the Midwest Climate Watch.


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