Widespread Rain Across Illinois

I was driving back from a meeting yesterday and saw creeks that were bank full and water standing in fields. That’s the first time I’ve seen those sights in a while, maybe over a year ago in this part of Illinois (Champaign County).

In the last 7 days, widespread rainfall amounts of 1 to 3 inches have been reported across the state. See the map below. This is a National Weather Service product that combines high-resolution radar estimates calibrated with rain gauge measurements (see map below). The heaviest rains fell in northern Illinois, an area considered to have been in some stage of drought earlier this week. Because some of the rain fell after the cutoff for this week’s Drought Monitor, I would expect to see the effects of these rains in next week’s map.

Another bit of good news is that the soils appeared to be unfrozen across most of the state during this rain event, thanks to the warm temperatures early in the week. See the second map below from our network of 19 soil temperature sites across Illinois. As a result, much of this rain should have had a chance to soak in and recharge the soil moisture profile.

Finally, the abundant and widespread rainfall across the state has increased the flow in streams and rivers across the state. Many stream gauges report levels that are in the upper 90th percentile for this time of year. In fact, the National Weather Service has reported some minor flooding along the Kaskaskia and Little Wabash Rivers. The result is that much more water is flowing into the critically low Mississippi River. The Mississippi River stage at Chester Illinois (below St. Louis) has risen seven feet and is expected to rise another four feet in the next day or two (last figure).

While the recent rains should provide some temporary relief for barge traffic on the Mississippi River, levels are expected to start dropping again in a few days. The larger problem is that about 80 percent of the Missouri River and Upper Mississippi River basins are in some stage of drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. Until those two basins are in better shape, concerns with Mississippi River flows will remain for some time.

Seven-day precipitation totals ending January 31, 2013.
Seven-day precipitation totals ending January 31, 2013.
Soil temperatures at the 4 inch level under grass at 19 sites around Illinois for January 30, 2013. Data are from the Water and Atmospheric Monitoring (WARM) network at the Illinois State Water Survey.
Soil temperatures at the 4 inch level under grass at 19 sites around Illinois for January 30, 2013. Data are from the Water and Atmospheric Monitoring (WARM) network at the Illinois State Water Survey.
Observed Mississippi River levels at Chester Illinois on January 31, 2013, and forecasted river levels into February.
Observed Mississippi River levels at Chester Illinois on January 31, 2013, and forecasted river levels into February.
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