Midwest Weekly Highlights - September 10-16, 2008
Ike Rakes the Midwest
Hurricane Ike was the big news but by no means the only news in the Midwest this week. While Ike brought heavy rain to an area in broad band extending from Kansas City to southern Michigan, a stalled cold front across the central Midwest and copious tropical moisture resulted in in two days of record-setting heavy rain from Missouri through northern Illinois and southern Michigan preceding Ike's passage. The rain resulted in widespread flash flooding and sent rivers out of their banks. Additional rainfall from Ike only added to the problem. Damaging winds occurred from southern Missouri through Ohio and Kentucky as the low that was Ike raced northeast through the Midwest.
Precipitation for the week was three to seven times normal in Missouri, southern Iowa, the northern three-quarters of Illinois, northern Indiana, southern lower Michigan, and extreme northwestern Ohio (Figure 1). Most of the rain in the central Midwest this week fell from September 12-14. Rainfall amounts exceeded 10 inches in northern Illinois, northwestern indiana, and southwestern Michigan (Figure 2). Rainfall records were shattered across much of this area, and at mid-month precipitation across the central Midwest is already two to four times the normal monthly rainfall for September. In contrast, dry conditions persisted throughout Kentucky where rainfall was less than 25 percent of normal across much of the state. The September 16 U.S. Drought Monitor depicted an expansion of Moderate (D1) drought over Wisconsin and Minnesota, while the rainfall this week brought relief to northeastern Indiana and northern Ohio (Figure 3).
The temperature departures this week reflected the general weather pattern. North and west of the Ohio River, where clouds and precipitation were dominant, temperature departures ranged from 1°F to 4°F below normal (Figure 4). Temperature departures across Ohio south through Kentucky ranged from 1°F to more than 3°F above normal.
Quiet Start, then Torrential Rain
A large high pressure system brought pleasant fall weather to most of the Midwest the first two days of the week. As it retreated to the east, a low pressure system in the northern plains brought scattered showers and thunderstorms to Iowa and Minnesota.
By the morning of September 12 a cold front extended from the northern tip of Lake Huron southwestward to the Texas Panhandle. Moisture-laden tropical air pumped northward by the circulation of Hurricane Ike and the large high pressure system covering the eastern United States streamed over the frontal boundary. A large area of heavy rain developed from central Kansas through northern Missouri, southeastern Iowa, northern Illinois, and southern Michigan (Figure 5). The rain continued unabated through September 13 as this front remained parked over the central Midwest, though it did lessen in intensity during the day.
Ike Adds to Woes
Hurricane Ike slammed into the Texas coast during the early morning hours of September 13 (Figure 6), and continued steadily northward through eastern Texas during the day (Figure 7). Flash flood and flood watches and warnings from Missouri into southern Michigan in anticipation of additional heavy rain from Ike (Figure 8). The remnants of Ike, it's circulation still clearly evident on both satellite and radar, merged with the cold front in northwestern Arkansas during the early morning hours of September 14 (Figure 9). Heavy rain spread across southwestern and central Missouri, then into southeastern Iowa and the northern two-thirds of Illinois as the system moved rapidly to the northeast (Figure 10). The low moved through Missouri by 8:00 a.m. CDT (Figure 11), then to central Indiana by early afternoon, moving northeastward at 50-55 mph (Figure 12).The strong pressure gradient (large change in pressure with distance) between the low and high pressure over the eastern United States produced a band of strong, damaging winds along and south of the low's path (Figure 13). Winds gusted to between 50 and 60 mph, with a gust to 75 mph reported at Port Columbus International Airport (Franklin County, OH) and an unofficial gust of 84 mph recorded in West Chester, OH (Butler County). The winds continued for several hours during the afternoon across Indiana, Ohio, and Kentucky. By midnight, the low pressure system that had been Hurricane Ike 36 hours earlier was moving into southern Quebec, Canada (Figure 14).
Impacts - Rain and Wind
Although most of the severe weather was related to the heavy rain and the strong winds generated by the low pressure system as it moved through the Midwest, a number of tornadoes were reported in Missouri on September 11 and September 12. On September 11 at least two tornadoes were reported in southern Missouri, and on September 12 tornadoes were confirmed in the Kansas City area and in north-central Missouri, with some structural damage. On September 13 three tornadoes touched down in Michigan. One briefly touched down near Paw Paw in Van Buren County. A second tornado was on the ground for one-half mile near Westwood, MI (Kalamazoo County) damaging numerous trees. The third tornado was sighted near Brookfield, MI (Eaton County) and caused some minor damage. More on the Michigan tornadoes, including photos, can be seen on the NWS Grand Rapids MI web site.
Below is a summary of the weather and and some of the impacts by state.
In Missouri, the heaviest rains were found across the northern half of the state. In northeast Missouri, Kirksville (Adair County) received a total of 8.14 inches of rain, while Columbia (Boone County) measured 7.19 inches of rain from the system. The St. Louis area was also hard hit, with O’Fallon (St. Charles County) reporting 5.84 inches of rain. Three deaths were reported in association with the storm. A woman was killed when a tree was struck by lightning and a limb fell on her in Ladue (St. Louis County). Two other people were killed in University City (St. Louis County) when they were swept away by flood waters while trying to move their vehicles to higher ground. Numerous roads were closed by flooding, including a stretch of Interstate 70. At the peak of the storm nearly 106,000 people were without power in the St. Louis Area.
NWS Kansas City/Pleasant Hill - heavy rain and flooding
NWS Springfield, MO - heavy rain and flooding
Much of Illinois received heavy rain due to the effects of both Ike and a stalled out cold front that served as a focus for heavy rain. The Chicago metropolitan area was especially hard hit, with the suburban community of Wheaton (DuPage County) receiving 10.51 inches of rain between September 12 and 14. O’Hare International Airport received 6.64 inches of rainfall on September 13, setting a new record for the highest calendar day rainfall total. Numerous roads throughout northeastern Illinois were closed by flooding. Creeks and rivers rapidly rose and overflowed their banks, and record flood stages were reached on many area rivers. The DuPage River at Bolingbrook reached a new record flood stage of 24.04 feet on September 14 (Figure 15). The Des Plaines reached their second highest crests on record at Des Plaines and Riverside on September 14. The runoff from northeastern Illinois emptied in to the Illinois River, causing record flood stages at Morris and LaSalle on September 16. Seven counties in the Chicago area were declared state disaster areas as the result of flooding caused by the rain: Cook, DuPage, DeKalb, Grundy, Kane, Lasalle and Will. At least two drowning fatalities were recorded in Cook County, one in Oak Lawn and the other in Arlington Heights. Sections of the Bishop Ford Freeway on the south side of Chicago remained closed September 15, snarling traffic. Winds caused at least 49,000 people to lose power, primarily in southern parts of the state.
NWS Chicago - flooding photos
Serious flash flooding occurred in eastern Iowa and adjacent portions of Illinois as a result of 6 to 8 inches of rain September 11-12. In the Burlington area flooding closed streets and caused property damage as floodwaters reached a depth of several feet. The rain caused the Mississippi River at Burlington to rise rapidly to 11.79 feet, causing the river to flow back through a 16 foot wide gap in Henderson County (IL) Levee No. 2, which was designed to let water flow out of flooded areas from the storms earlier this summer and back into the river. Workers were able to plug the hole before there was much damage.
Northwest Indiana was especially hard hit by flooding rains. Portage (Porter County) receive 11.46 inches of rain between September 12 and 14, while South Bend (St. Joseph County) received 10.94 inches of rain in the same period. The rain resulted in widespread flash flooding and river flooding. A 40-mile stretch of Interstate 65 in northern Indiana was still closed on September 15 due to flooding. Record flooding occurred on many rivers in northwest Indiana. The Kankakee River at Shelby, IN reached a new record crest of 12.06 feet on September 16 and was still rising. High winds hit central and southern Indiana, where a total of 297,106 customers were reported without power at the peak of the storm. Four fatalities were reported with the storm. In Chesterton (Porter County), two men were killed while trying to rescue a child from a flooded ditch. The child was later able to escape the flood water without injury. In Rising Sun (Ohio County), a person was killed by a falling tree, and another falling tree fatality was reported near Louisville (Clark County). A wind gust of 63 miles per hour was reported at Indianapolis International Airport (Marion County), with an unofficial report of a 67 mile per hour gust at Seymour (Jackson County). A state of emergency was declared for Jefferson County, IN on September 14.
NWS Indianapolis - high winds
NWS North Webster, IN - heavy rain
Metro Detroit not only saw heavy rains and high winds from the remnants of Ike, but also the effects of tornadoes spawned by the storm. A tornado touched down in Plymouth (Wayne County), cutting a narrow, skipping path through the town. The tornado flipped cars and damaging several homes and apartments. Over 24,000 were left without power in the Detroit area. Flooding resulted in the evacuation of over 80 residents of a senior living facility as water began flowing through patients rooms. The highest rainfall totals were found in South Haven (Van Buren County) which received 6.68 inches of rain. An eight foot section of an earthen dam on the Dowagiac River in Berrien County gave way on September 15, forcing the evacuation of a dozen homes. The rain also led to massive sewage overflows. Macomb County discharged 94 million gallons of sewage into the Clinton River and Lake St. Clair. A retention basin in Grand Rapids overflowed and dumped more than 52 million gallons of partially-treated sewage into the Grand River. A pumping station failure in Ionia County led to a discharge of 749,000 gallons of sewage into the Grand River. In Genesee County the city of Flushing released more than 400,000 gallons of sewage into the Flint River. No fatalities were reported due to the winds, flooding or tornadoes in Michigan.
NWS Grand Rapids, MI - tornadoes (description, damage photos)
NWS Detroit, MI - rainfall
Most of Ohio was affected by the strong winds from Ike, which caused damage across the state. Winds gusted as high as 75 miles per hour at the Port Columbus International Airport (Franklin County). At the Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky International Airport (Boone County, KY), winds gusted to 74 miles per hour, ripping the roof off of a Delta Air Lines hangar and damaging another airport building. The control tower at the airport was evacuated temporarily as a safety precaution during the storm. More than 955,000 customers lost power during the storm in the Cincinnati area, and on September 15 an estimated 1.92 million people in Ohio were without power. Four fatalities were reported in the Cincinnati area.
NWS Wilmington, OH (Cincinnati) - high winds
Strong winds also hit large portions of eastern and central Kentucky (Figure 16). A 75 mile per hour wind gust was measured at the Louisville International Airport (Jefferson County). Over 300,000 customers were without power in the Louisville area. National Guard units were called to Louisville to help patrol and remove debris. Power restoration is expected to take up to 14 days for some residents. Three people were killed and several others injured by falling trees and limbs. Producers reported major crop damage with reports of entire corn fields flat on the ground because of the wind. There were also reports of damage to tobacco barns and the standing crop. The extensive damage from the high winds led Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear to declare a state of emergency for Ballard, Caldwell, Carlisle, Fulton, Hickman, Lyon, Floyd, Madison and Union counties in Kentucky. Many schools were closed on September 15 because of the widespread power outages.
NWS Paducah, KY - high winds