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Wettest winter yet in Iowa

By Staff | Mar 12, 2016

General summary

Iowa temperatures in February averaged 28.1 degrees, or 4.1 degrees above normal, while precipitation totaled 0.92 inches , or 0.13 inches, less than normal.

This ranks as the 31st warmest and 65th driest February among 144 years of records.

Snowfall averaged 9.0 inches, or 2.2 inches above normal, to rank as the 37th snowiest February among 129 years of records.

This was the seventh consecutive snowier-than-normal February.

Temperatures

Bitter cold weather made a relatively brief appearance in Iowa during February with sub-zero temperatures reported on only the 4th, 5th and 10th through 13th.

Temperatures were above average every day from the 15th through the end of the month with only a handful of locations seeing readings dip below 20 degrees during the second one-half of February.

Cresco reported the month’s lowest temperature with a -17-degrees reading on the morning of the 13th.

Temperatures reached 73 degrees at Shenandoah and Sidney on the 18th, while Sidney reached 75 degrees on the 27th.

These are the highest February temperatures recorded in Iowa since 1999 (76 degrees at Glenwood on Feb. 10).

In response to the milder late-month weather soils began to thaw across central and southern Iowa on the 19th and were completely frost-free over about the southern one-half of Iowa at month’s end.

The late-month warmth also melted most of the snow cover that had persisted over northern Iowa since Dec. 28.

Some flooding occurred in response to the snowmelt and ice jams that resulted from the break-up of river ice.

Precipitation

More than one-half of the month’s precipitation fell very early in the month with the major winter storm of the 2nd to the 3rd.

Heavy snow fell across the northwest one-half of Iowa with greatest amounts reported of 14.0 inches at Washta, 13.6 inches at Akron and 13.5 inches at Sheldon.

However, only a cold rain fell across extreme southeast Iowa with this storm.

There were very frequent light snow and/or rain events between the 3rd and 21st.

The largest of these events came on the 13th to the 14th when 2 to 4 inches of snow fell over much of the northeast one-half of the state.

However, winds gusts of 40 to 50 miles per hour combined with light snowfall and deep snow cover left from the Groundhog Day storm system to create blizzard conditions over north central Iowa from the night of the 7th through the morning of the 9th.

Finally, winter weather made a return visit late on the 29th into March 1st with 2 to 5 inches of snow falling across the northern one-third of the state.

Overall monthly precipitation totals were well below normal over east central and southeast Iowa and well above normal over the northwest.

February precipitation totals varied from 0.35 inches at Gilman and Toledo to 1.92 inches at Sheldon.

Monthly snowfall totals varied from only 1.3 inches at Clarinda to 23.4 inches at Sheldon.

Snow totals have been well above normal in three of the past four months in northwest Iowa.

Severe weather

Wind gusts in the 50 to 60 mph range were common statewide on the 19th with Iowa City Airport reporting the highest gust at 63 mph.

Winter summary

Temperatures over the three mid-winter months averaged 26.8 degrees, or 4.7 degrees above normal, while precipitation totaled 6.57 inches, or nearly double the seasonal normal of 3.34 inches.

This ranks as the wettest and 17th warmest winter among 143 years of state records.

The last warmer winter came four years ago (2011-2012), averaging 1.1 degrees warmer than this one.

Despite slightly below-normal precipitation in January and February these two months brought enough precipitation, when combined with December 2015’s record total to easily surpass the 6.0-inch total of the 1914-15 winter for the wettest on record.

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