Summer 2016 Central Iowa Fire Weather News

It has been a slow fire weather season.  The spring was cool and damp and warm season grasses were a little slower to green up.  As we transitioned into June we did warm up and were dry but grass fires, or at least grass fires that were known by the NWS, were minimal.  As we went into July, we continued to have hot spells though any period of heat through mid July was both preceded and followed by a cooler spell which again helped keep grass fires in check.

As we roll into fall we will be preparing for the fall fire weather season which will begin on September 1st.  Beginning September 1st we will be issuing the Fire Weather Planning Forecast twice a day…at 6 am and by 4 pm daily.  We will also be alert to the potential for red flag warnings as we head into harvest season then late fall.  In addition, we will use crop curing as a guide to fire danger during the months of September and October and transition to prairie grass curing in later October through mid November.   We have found that using these two different fuels in the fall better assesses the fire threat and will alert people to the proper threats.  The threats will be displayed in the form of a state map on the fire weather web page of our website.  Please check out http://www.weather.gov/dmx/fire for the latest fire weather forecasts.

Assessment of prairie grass curing is provided by local County Conservation Board employees.  They provide the National Weather Service with curing values of prairie grass on a weekly basis through the entire dry down of the grass and I would like to take this time to recognize their efforts in helping us to provide the most accurate forecast and warning service possible.

As we head into the fall season I would like to remind everyone to heed forecasts and warnings of dry conditions.  Harvesting in extreme dry and windy conditions is the number one cause of crop fires in the fall and crop fires by far exceed any other cause of fall fires.

Blog Post by Frank Boksa, Meteorologist, NWS Des Moines

On This Day in Iowa Weather History – May 21, 2004 Tornado Outbreak

On May 21, 2004, a significant severe weather outbreak began that morning and continued across the state throughout the day/evening and lasted well into the following morning on the 22nd. There were 16 tornadoes that occurred across Iowa including one that injured 15 people in and around the small town of Bradgate, Iowa. The Bradgate tornado was rated an F2 (before the EF scale came into effect).  Another significant tornado just west of Bradgate was a F1 in Rolfe. One thing to note, the Bradgate tornado began just south of the town of Rolfe and in this location was rated F2 (See Survey Map). Below are several damage photos from the NWS survey team along with a few aerial shots courtesy of KCCI and John McLaughlin.  There is also a quick loop of the storm relative velocity data for the Bradgate tornado. In addition to the multitude of tornadoes, large hail was reported across the state including softball sized hail in Spencer.  In fact, there were two separate incidents where softball hail fell, first with a storm around 10 am and then again with another storm around 4 pm. Some of the storms also produced very heavy rainfall and flooding with accumulations of 4.75 inches at Emmetsburg, 5.14 inches at Decorah, and 6.10 inches at Mason City.

NWS Damage Survey from the May 21, 2004 Bradgate/Rolfe F2/F1 tornadoes respectively.

NWS Damage Survey from the May 21, 2004 Bradgate/Rolfe F2/F1 tornadoes respectively.

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Blog post by Kenny Podrazik – NWS Des Moines

 

On This Date in Iowa Weather History – May 6

Iowa certainly has had its extreme weather. May is no exception and today (May 6) has proven that Iowa can experience many different types of weather no matter the season. From snow to tornadoes to extreme heat or bitter cold and not to forget flooding. Below are 6 years of the most extreme weather across Iowa that has occurred on May 6.

  • 1885: A late spring cold spell produced frost and flurries across Iowa from May 6-9, 1885.  On the morning of the 6th it was reported that ice half an inch thick formed on standing water in Muscatine County. Flurries were reported at Sibley, St. Ansgar, and Waukon that morning and at other stations across northern Iowa on the following two days. The cold spell resulted in widespread damage to garden plants, orchards, and other vegetation across the state.
  • 1890: Unseasonably cold weather resulted in light snow mixed with rain and sleet in some areas. At Des Moines the Weather Bureau observer reported a trace of snow, while at Amana the observer wrote that ‘snow fell on the 6th, covering ground to a depth of one inch, but all melted by noon.’
  • 1934: One of the hottest summers on record in Iowa began in earnest as the temperature reached 100 F at Sioux City where this remains the earliest date of triple digit heat on record. This was only the first of a remarkable 11 days that month on which a 100 F or higher temperature was recorded somewhere in Iowa. Other reported high temperatures included 100 F at Alton, 99 F at Le Mars, Storm Lake, and Waterloo, 98 F at Algona and Grinnell, and 97 F at Atlantic, Fayette, and Washington. At Des Moines the month would finish as the warmest May on record with an average temperature of 71.1 F. A couple figures in the slideshow below shows the maximum temperatures and their departure from normal.
  • 1971: Severe weather struck southwestern Iowa for the second consecutive day. After an F3 tornado on the 5th injured 12 people in Taylor County as it passed through the town of Conway, a severe hail storm on the 6th dropped stones 2 inches in diameter in Mills County for such duration that they drifted 2 to 3 feet deep in the ditches and gullies around Glenwood.
  • 1983: A tornado touched down briefly in Pleasant Hill on the eastern edge of Des Moines, producing F2 damage as it destroyed 11 homes and damaged about two dozen more on a path only 8 to 10 blocks long and 50 to 75 yards wide. Several other tornadoes touched down across central and southwestern Iowa that evening but produced only minor damage with no injuries.
  • 1989: Unseasonably cold air settled across Iowa for the first week or two of May. The coldest temperatures were reached on the 6th when flurries were reported at most locations in the state and Hampton measured a tenth of an inch of snow. Temperatures bottomed out in the 20s at most stations north of I-80 and in the low to mid 30s to the south with the lowest readings including 26 F at Allison, Fayette, and Oelwein, 25 F at nine stations including Decorah, Forest City, and Hampton, 24 F at Charles City and Colo, and 23 F at Cresco. The low temperatures across Iowa were 12 to 18 degrees below normal! See the slideshow below for a map of where the coldest temperatures were located on May 6, 1989.

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For more On this Date in Iowa Weather history, please visit our website at: http://www.weather.gov/dmx/wxHistory

 

Iowa Monthly Climate Summary – April 2016

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Temperatures

The statewide average temperature was 49.9°F or 1.0°F above normal (See Figure 1). April 2016 became the 57th warmest April out of 144 years of statewide climate records.  The monthly average temperature at Des Moines was 54.2°F or 2.5°F above normal which was the 22nd warmest March for that station since records began in 1878. At Des Moines, the highest temperature was 83°F on the 3rd and the lowest was 25°F on the 9th.  Waterloo’s monthly average temperature was 49.1°F or 0.2°F above normal. The highest temperature at Waterloo was 80°F on the 16th while the coldest was 16°F on the 9th.

At the beginning and end of the month, temperatures were generally below normal. During the middle weeks of April is when the above normal temperatures prevailed. The warmest period occurred from the 13th to the 26th (See Figure 2). A pair of hard freezes occurred on the 9th and 12th of the month where the 9th was the coldest day across the state (See Figure 3). The coldest temperature of the month was 13°F in Audubon on the 9th. Sheldon, Spencer, and Webster City all recorded 16°F low temperatures on the morning of the 12th.  The month’s highest temperature was 85°F at Little Sioux on the 3rd and then Donnellson reached the same temperature on the 25th. Dreary and damp weather set in across the state during the final four days of the month and kept temperatures well below normal, especially maximum temperatures (See Figure 4).

Precipitation

The statewide precipitation total was 3.07 inches or 0.44 inches below normal. For the entire month, precipitation totals were above normal across western Iowa while the north central to northeast had the lowest amount of precipitation (See Figure 5). April 2016 became the 68th wettest April among 144 years of climate records.  The total precipitation at Des Moines was 3.37 inches or 0.49 inches below normal while Waterloo totaled 2.60 inches or 1.11 inches below normal for the month.

Abnormally dry weather conditions reigned during the first 18 days of April when no measurable precipitation occurred over west central to southwest Iowa (See Figure 6). During the last 12 days of the month, a more active and wet pattern developed across the state (See Figure 7). In fact, the statewide average precipitation during the first 18 days was 0.57 inches, while the final 12 days averaged 2.50 inches.  The hardest hit area was western Iowa the last 2/5 of the month and caused several rivers and streams to become bank full or even reached minor flood stage by early May. April 2016 totals ranged from 0.75 inches at Marquette to 7.52 inches at Alta.  Another comparison, Guttenberg had its driest April since 1942 while Sioux City recorded its wettest April since 1998.  A cold, dreary, and soggy end to the month plagued the entire state, but the precipitation totals were recorded on the morning of the 1st of May and will be recorded in the May 2016 precipitation total.

There was very little severe weather throughout the month as the first 18 days were fairly inactive. Only 2 days had severe weather which were the 24th and 27th of April. Northwest Iowa had high winds and large hail on the 24th while on the 27th had 5 tornadoes that occurred in southwest Iowa, including an EF1 in Stanton, Iowa. For a summary of the event, visit: http://www.weather.gov/dmx/160427summary. As far as non-thunderstorm activity, there were several high wind events that occurred during the first 8 of 9 days of the month.  This is not uncommon as early April is typically the windiest time of year in Iowa.

Blog post by Kenny Podrazik – NWS Des Moines

Winter Weather Social Media Q&A

Updated Information

The National Weather Service Des Moines invites you to a social media Q&A on Iowa Winter Weather Awareness Day! Join us on Facebook or Twitter beginning at 7 p.m. on Sunday, November 8 and ask us any winter weather questions you have. You can follow the conversation by using #IWWAD. More information on Winter Weather Safety and NWS Products can be found on our webpage.

Q&Aannouncement2

September 2015 Iowa Climate Review

Temperatures

The average statewide temperature during the month of September was 68.5°F which was 5.3°F above normal (See Figure 1). September 2015 became the 7th warmest September among the 143 years of state climate records. Des Moines’ average monthly temperature was 71.9°F or 6.3°F above normal. The coldest temperature of the month at Des Moines was 47°F on the 30th while the hottest temperature reached 94°F on the 6th. Waterloo was also well above normal for monthly average temperature with an average of 68.3°F or 5.3°F above normal. The coldest temperature at Waterloo in September was 39°F on the 30th while the warmest temperature was 92°F on the 6th. 90 degree temperatures were fairly common during the first week of September. In fact, the first seven days of the month were the warmest week of the year in the state with temperatures averaging 10.6° above normal (See Figure 2).

When temperatures were above normal during September, they were well above normal with some of the warmest stretches occurring from the 3rd to 7th, 15th to 17th, and 22nd to 25th. In fact, Des Moines had more days (13) when the average daily temperature was at least 10°F greater than normal, than it had days when the average temperature dropped below normal (7). Waterloo only had 6 days when the daily average temperatures was below normal and had 11 days when daily average temperature was at least 10°F or greater than normal. A cold front pushed through the state at the end of the month and brought some temperatures in the 30s across northern Iowa. Estherville and Cresco dropped to 33°F on the 30th.

Figure 1: Average temperature departure from normal for the month of September 2015. Map is courtesy of MRCC.

Figure 1: Average temperature departure from normal for the month of September 2015. Map is courtesy of MRCC.

Figure 2: Average temperature departure from normal during the first week of September 2015. Map is courtesy of MRCC.

Figure 2: Average temperature departure from normal during the first week of September 2015. Map is courtesy of MRCC.

















Precipitation

The average statewide precipitation was 4.08 inches or only 0.70 inches above normal (See Figure 3). September 2015 becomes the 50th wettest September among 143 years of statewide records. It was a “hit-or-miss” for precipitation during the month of September with the west to southwest portions of the state receiving the bulk of the rain and the north to east the less amounts (See Figure 4). Typically when it rained in September, it rained in abundance but in isolated areas. Fort Dodge for instance only received 0.90 inches while Glenwood reported 11.63 inches for the month. Des Moines and Waterloo had 5.25 inches and 2.59 inches respectively. Torrential rains fell over portions of central to southwest Iowa during the overnight hours from the 6th to the 7th and caused some significant flash flooding in Carroll, Guthrie, and Greene counties. The towns of Bagley, Coon Rapids, Bayard, Glidden, and Carroll all had significant impacts due to flash flooding (See Figure 5), with major state Highway 141 receiving water over it in multiple locations. Radar estimated rainfall amounts ranged from 3 to 8 inches on the night of the 6th (See Figure 6) with a report of 6.25 inches from a spotter in Bagley. Portions of southeast Iowa also had 2 to 4 inches of rain from the 6th to 7th. On the 23rd, western Iowa received a round of torrential rain and mainly affected the Council Bluffs area. In fact, a storm total of 9.28 inches was reported on the north edge of Council Bluffs. Severe weather was fairly limited across the state during the month of September with a few reports of large hail and damaging winds on the 6th and then again on the 10th to the 11th.

Figure 3: September 2015 total precipitation for the month across Iowa shows the west to southwest received the most significant amounts with the far eastern corners of the state the lowest amounts.

Figure 3: September 2015 total precipitation for the month across Iowa shows the west to southwest received the most significant amounts with the far eastern corners of the state the lowest amounts.

Figure 4: Average precipitation departure from normal for the month of September 2015. Map is courtesy of MRCC.

Figure 4: Average precipitation departure from normal for the month of September 2015. Map is courtesy of MRCC.

Figure 5a: Flash flooding photos from Carroll on September 6, 2015. Photos are courtesy of KCCI and Iowa Storm Chasing Network.

Figure 5a: Flash flooding photos from Carroll on September 6, 2015. Photos are courtesy of KCCI and Iowa Storm Chasing Network.

Figure 5b: Flash flooding photos from Carroll on September 6, 2015. Photos are courtesy of KCCI and Iowa Storm Chasing Network.

Figure 5b: Flash flooding photos from Carroll on September 6, 2015. Photos are courtesy of KCCI and Iowa Storm Chasing Network.

Figure 6: Radar estimated rainfall amounts from September 6-7, 2015 show a very heavy swath of rain from Coon Rapids to Bayard to Rippey Iowa.

Figure 6: Radar estimated rainfall amounts from September 6-7, 2015 show a very heavy swath of rain from Coon Rapids to Bayard to Rippey Iowa.

Blog post by Kenny Podrazik – NWS Des Moines

On this Date in Iowa Weather History – Early Snow

091010

Radar from October 10, 2009 shows the small band of light to moderate snow that set up generally along and south Interstate 80 from Omaha to Des Moines. Image is courtesy of Iowa Environmental Mesonet.

October 10, 2009: An unusually cold autumn storm system brought snow to parts of western, northern, and central Iowa. A band of moderate snow developed during the morning hours stretching from around the Omaha metro area eastward to the Des Moines metro, roughly parallel to and just south of Interstate 80 (See Figure 1). Within this band, several locations received an inch or more of snowfall including 3.0 inches at Atlantic and an amazing 6.7 inches at Underwood in Pottawattamie County (See Figure 2). This is the second-highest snowfall amount on record in Iowa for so early in the season, bested only by the 9.0 inches recorded at Hawarden on October 9, 1970. At the Des Moines airport, 1.1 inches of snow was recorded which tied the earliest date on record of measurable snow at that location and broke their record for the earliest snow of an inch or more.  We had a little fun with our updated forecast graphic with the mention of an ‘angry’ snowflake due to the early snow (See Figure 3). The snow melted very quickly at all affected locations.

SnowfallMap-10102009

Accumulated snowfall map from October 10, 2009. Image courtesy of Midwestern Regional Climate Center.

DMX_evil snowflake

One of our archived forecast graphics from October 10, 2009.

 

Newsletter Navigation – Fall/Winter 2015

The following links will open each blog post in a new window. All of the articles can also be found on the Blog.

Office News & Events:

Climate:

Weather & Forecasting:

NWS Des Moines Hosts Hollings Scholar

By Eric McCormick, Hollings Scholar and Kenny Podrazik, Journey Forecaster
Eric McCormick presents his poster in Silver Spring, MD

Eric McCormick presents his poster in Silver Spring, MD

This summer, the NWS Des Moines was pleased to host Eric McCormick, a student conducting a summer research project as part of NOAA’s Ernest F. Hollings Undergraduate Scholarship Program. Eric is now a senior School of Meteorology student at the University of Oklahoma in Norman. Eric’s interest centers around NOAA’s Weather-Ready Nation initiatives and this was the focus of his summer work at the office. His project, titled “Going Social: The Integration of Social Media into Severe Weather Operations at WFO Des Moines,” incorporated his interests as he completed a social media use analysis for the office. His work specifically focused on investigating how Facebook and Twitter have become important tools for the office during severe weather operations, and how the social media presence from the office could be further improved. His work analyzed severe weather events across Central Iowa from 2013 to 2015 specifically from a social media perspective in search of best practices and recommendations for improvement in the future. Incorporated into his findings was survey data he collected about social media and technology use to access weather information. He created a conceptual social media model and wrote an overarching analysis for the office that detailed his findings, which he presented to the office staff at the conclusion of his summer internship.

Additionally, Eric presented his findings at the NOAA Science and Education Symposium in Silver Spring, MD during the final week of July 2015. At the Science Symposium, all Hollings Scholars (over 100 students from around the country) gathered to present their summer work to the other students and the NOAA headquarters community. The Scholars presented their summer research projects either via oral or poster presentation. Eric presented a poster and said his poster was a hit and stood out because of its project type, with no other students researching local NWS social media work.

When not at the office this summer, Eric enjoyed getting outside to explore all that Iowa had to offer. Eric returned to Norman in August and will earn his Bachelor’s degree in Meteorology in May 2016. He is already researching graduate school opportunities to additionally earn his Master’s degree. His future career plans involve emergency management with a focus on weather safety and preparedness.

The Des Moines office enjoyed having Eric join our team for the summer and will continue to benefit from his research. We wish Eric the best with his future plans!

NWS Des Moines Now on Periscope

By Kenny Podrazik, Journey Forecaster and Brad Small, Senior Forecaster

Periscope is a fairly new feature available through Twitter that was released earlier this year.  It allows you to experience events that you wouldn’t normally be able to experience. In the weather community, this has tremendous potential. You’ll be able to experience a live broadcast of a tornado in western Kansas or large hail in South Dakota or white-out blizzard conditions in northern Iowa. All you need is a Twitter account and you can discover the advantages of using live streaming video via Periscope.

There are two ways to utilize Periscope, as a broadcaster or as a viewer.  If you are broadcasting video, this allows your followers to see what you are seeing in real time as they are immediately linked to your live feed. As a viewer, this provides you with the opportunity to see through someone else’s eyes.

For us at the National Weather Service, we see the benefit of both. The benefit of being a broadcaster allows our followers to see what we’re seeing on radar or maybe take a quick look at a storm survey or even a brief tour of the office.  As a viewer, this has an even more impactful benefit to the National Weather Service.  It allows us to view live broadcasts from our storm spotters and have a better sense of what they are reporting to us. It doesn’t just end at spotters though.  We’ll be able to follow storm chasers’ live feed and see the evolution of a supercell and potentially the formation of a tornado.  This will aid tremendously in warning decision making because there is nothing more beneficial than real time reports on the ground.

We highly recommend that if you have a Twitter account to utilize Periscope if you are out storm spotting, chasing or encounter any interesting weather.  Please utilize the #iawx or #nwsdmx hashtags when you title your Periscope stream  to make it easier for us to track your video.  You can follow us on Twitter and Periscope at @NWSDesMoines.