The Iowa Department of Natural Resources, Friday, released their latest precipitation information and drought report. Officials say the past two weeks have been unusually dry across most of Iowa. The statewide average precipitation was 0.19 inches, while normal for the period is 1.01 inches. Salem in Henry County in southeast Iowa was one exception, receiving over an inch during this period. Precipitation in Cass and surrounding Counties is 10-percent below normal for the period covering March 12th through the 26th.
About seven percent of the state remains in severe drought, while about half of the state is rated in moderate drought, including most of western and southern Iowa, with the exception of Adair, Guthrie and Dallas Counties, which are “Abnormally Dry.” This is reflected in the drop of average stream flow in Iowa. Recent rains are reflected in the stream flow index upturn for the past few days.
South of Interstate 80, ice is almost completely gone from rivers. Iowa DNR fisheries biologists continue to monitor oxygen levels in many waters and have seen some slight improvements in some places. Considerable areas of ice remain in northern Iowa.
For a more thorough review of Iowa’s water resource trends March 12th through March 26th, go to http://www.iowadnr.gov/watersummaryupdate.
Iowa’s first tornado of 2014 touched down Thursday afternoon (March 27th) in rural Clarke County, south of Osceola. No injuries are reported but the strong winds did damage, tearing down tree limbs, knocking down power lines and causing some structural damage to a homestead. Jeff Johnson, the warning coordination meteorologist at the National Weather Service, says it may’ve been small, but it was a twister. “Based on the radar data and some eyewitness accounts and then some damage that was reported, we did have a brief tornado,” Johnson says. “The eyewitness report said it lasted roughly a minute.”
The funnel cloud touched down in south-central Iowa and became a tornado around 4:30 P-M, though its duration and scope was limited. “Basically, we had a Morton building that was damaged and damage to someone’s home and the winds were consistent in the range of EF-0 or EF-1 on the enhanced Fujita scale,” Johnson says. “That would put us around 90 miles an hour for wind speeds.”
This is the first confirmed report of a tornado in Iowa this year and the first in nearly six months. “The last time we had tornadoes in Iowa was last fall,” Johnson says. “We had a very active fall actually and on October 4th in northwest Iowa, we had several tornadoes.”
This is Severe Weather Awareness Week in Iowa, an event that’s highlighted by a statewide tornado drill that was held on Wednesday. It’s a time when Iowans are reminded about the sometimes-violent weather that comes with the arrival of spring. “It’s not a coincidence that we have it during this time of year,” Johnson says, “although we usually like to have the week out of the way before we actually get the weather, but Mother Nature seldom cooperates. The irony there is that the tornado came a day after the tornado drill.”
Today: Partly sunny, with a high near 46. North wind 5 to 8 mph.
Tonight: Mostly cloudy, with a low around 27. North northeast wind 5 to 7 mph.
Saturday: Sunny, with a high near 59. Northeast wind 5 to 14 mph becoming south in the afternoon. Winds could gust as high as 18 mph.
Saturday Night: Mostly clear, with a low around 41. South wind 13 to 15 mph, with gusts as high as 24 mph.
Sunday: Sunny, with a high near 72. Windy.
Sunday Night: A 30 percent chance of showers. Partly cloudy, with a low around 50. Windy.
Monday: A 20 percent chance of showers. Partly sunny, with a high near 55. Windy.
Shelby County Emergency Management officials say light rain and drizzle this (Thursday) morning will give way to sunshine and strong winds this weekend. Rapid drying of the dead vegetation will occur returning, causing a higher threat for fires to spread. Therefore the Fire Danger placards in area businesses will remain in the “High” category, through Monday morning.
A fire Wednesday evening burned over 300 acres. The flames were fanned by winds in excess of 30-mph. The Shelby County EMA asks residents to please call ahead and report your burning plans to the EMA office at 712-755-2124.
Despite the explosive fire growth conditions in the area over the past few days, Atlantic Fire Chief Mark McNees doesn’t see the need for a County-wide ban on opening burning. McNees told KJAN News the fire that started east of Atlantic Wednesday afternoon was accidental, and not open burning-related. It was one of several fires in western Iowa that burned quickly and intensely, Wednesday. McNees said it’s not as bad in Cass County as in other counties which have instituted bans on open burning.
He says things are “greening-up,” slowly and people are being smart. He says residents are heeding advice given earlier this week to know when you are going to burn, check the weather, call your local fire chief and the Cass County Communications Center.
McNees still cautions residents of Cass County to be careful, and try to give Mother Nature a little more time to green-up the grasses, which will reduce the danger of fires spreading, as opposed to the dry conditions we are currently experiencing. He says if there were crops standing in the fields, he would be more concerned about fires spreading. Wednesday was just an “extreme day,” according to McNees, where all of the elements necessary for the eruption of rapidly expanding fires, were present.
357 AM CDT THU MAR 27 2014
EARLY THIS MORNING…CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF LIGHT RAIN AND PATCHY DRIZZLE. BREEZY. NOT AS COOL. SOUTH WIND 20 TO 25 MPH. CHANCE OF RAIN 30 PERCENT.
TODAY…CLOUDY…BREEZY. A CHANCE OF LIGHT RAIN THROUGH MID MORNING…THEN A CHANCE OF SHOWERS AND ISOLATED THUNDERSTORMS BEFORE NOON. SHOWERS LIKELY AND SCATTERED THUNDERSTORMS IN THE AFTERNOON. HIGH IN THE LOWER 50S. SOUTH WIND 15 TO 20 MPH SHIFTING TO THE SOUTHWEST IN THE AFTERNOON. GUSTS UP TO 30 MPH. CHANCE OF PRECIPITATION 70 PERCENT.
TONIGHT…MOSTLY CLOUDY UNTIL EARLY MORNING THEN BECOMING PARTLY CLOUDY. A CHANCE OF LIGHT RAIN AND LIGHT SNOW IN THE EVENING…THEN A SLIGHT CHANCE OF LIGHT RAIN BEFORE MIDNIGHT. BREEZY…COLDER. LOW IN THE UPPER 20S. NORTHWEST WIND 15 TO 25 MPH DECREASING TO 10 TO 15 MPH AFTER MIDNIGHT. CHANCE OF PRECIPITATION 50 PERCENT.
FRIDAY…PARTLY SUNNY. HIGH IN THE UPPER 40S. NORTH WIND 5 TO 10 MPH.
FRIDAY NIGHT…MOSTLY CLOUDY. LOW IN THE UPPER 20S. NORTHEAST WIND 5 TO 10 MPH.
SATURDAY…SUNNY…WARMER. HIGH IN THE UPPER 50S. EAST WIND AROUND 5 MPH SHIFTING TO THE SOUTH 10 TO 15 MPH IN THE AFTERNOON.
SUNDAY…MOSTLY SUNNY. BREEZY. HIGH IN THE UPPER 60S.