Monthly Archives: May 2015

Flooding – Deadly Risk in Illinois with 28 Deaths in 19 Years

Right now the attention is on the widespread flooding in Texas and Oklahoma, with the number of deaths sitting at 21 and climbing. Illinois has been faced with deadly flooding in the past. An examination of the national storm database reveals that Illinois has had 28 flood-related deaths in the last 19 years*.

Here are the numbers by year in Illinois. Some years like 2000, 2008, 2009, and 2013 were especially bad with 4 to 5 deaths each. A few years had no deaths, including 2004-07, 2012, and 2014. While not part of this database, six deaths were reported in Illinois during the 1993 flood, according the ISWS report.

Flood-related deaths in Illinois from 1996 to 2014, based on data from the National Climatic Data Center.

Flood-related deaths in Illinois from 1996 to 2014, based on data from the National Climatic Data Center.

Continue reading

El Nino and the Latest NWS Outlook for Summer, Fall, and Winter

Summary: According to the NWS Climate Prediction Center, El Niño has arrived and has a 90% chance of staying this summer and an 80% chance of remaining through the end of 2015. In terms of strength, this El Niño is expected to be weak to moderate. Illinois is expected to have an increased chance of cooler-than-average conditions in the late summer and on into fall.

The El Niño event has finally arrived and heavily influenced the NWS climate outlooks released this morning. For June (first figure, top row), the Southern Plains are expected to have an increased chance of cooler-than-average temperatures. A large part of the US is expected to have an increased chance of wetter-than-average precipitation, including the southern two-thirds of Illinois.

For the period June-August (first figure, second row), the increased chance for cooler-than-average conditions stretches northward and eastward and includes far western Illinois. The  increased chance for wetter-than-average conditions does not cover Illinois. This should not be a concern since no part of Illinois is in drought now.

Later forecasts for July-September, August-October, and September-November show in increased chance of cooler-than-average across Illinois (see second figure for the July-September temperatures). Continue reading

Rivers Have No Effect on Tornado Tracks

The Kansas City NWS office posted this image showing that rivers have no measurable effect on tornado tracks.


Click to enlarge.

The case for St. Louis reminded me that one of the worst tornado disasters in US history occurred when a tornado tracked through St. Louis, jumped the Mississippi River, and continued doing damage in East St. Louis. That was May 27, 1896. Besides busting the myth about rivers, it busted the myth that tornadoes do not hit major cities. At the time, St. Louis had a population close to 500,000.

The St. Louis Public Library has a great collection of photos and newspaper articles on the event. A total of 255 people were killed in both Illinois and Missouri. It was estimated to be an F-4 tornado on the Fujita scale, based on the damage seen in photographs.

Nine days after the event, a book was published based on newspaper accounts with lots of photos. It has recently been reprinted by Southern Illinois University Press and called “The Great Cyclone at St Louis and East St Louis, May 27, 1896”. Besides the incredible amount of detail on the storm’s damage, you are treated to some vivid and lurid prose (which was the newspaper style of the day).

Example of the damage from the 1896 event.

"St Louis Jefferson-Allen Damage" by "Photo by Strauss". Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons -

Click to enlarge. “St Louis Jefferson-Allen Damage” by “Photo by Strauss”. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons –

New Climate Extremes Tool

Someone just pointed out this interesting climate extremes tool from the Southern Regional Climate Center. Here is the URL:

From there you can choose the product, which is the type of all-time record – for the month, for the day, or for the year. Then you select your variable: record high, record low, etc. And finally the month of interest.  So far it only does temperatures and is limited to airport data.

Here is a screen shot of the all-time record highs for April in the Midwest. In the tool, instead of this screen shot, when you mouse over one of the records it gives you more details on the record and dates. It is an interesting tool – I just wish it included the longer NWS Cooperative Observer records.


Source: Southern Regional Climate Center. Click to enlarge.

7-Day Rainfall for Illinois

Here is the NWS radar/rain gauge product that takes advantage of good spatial coverage of radar with the accuracy of rain gauges for the last 7 days. The oranges, pink, and red, indicate amounts of 2 to 5 inches and covers much of the state. The heaviest amounts of 4 inches or more were east of St. Louis. Meanwhile the lightest amounts were in northwest Illinois were in the range of 0.25 to 0.5 inches.  Continue reading