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Iowans battle tornadoes, flooding and drought in 2011

News, Weather

December 31st, 2011 by Ric Hanson

Mother Nature took Iowans on another wild ride in 2011. State Climatologist Harry Hillaker says the summer long flooding along the Missouri River certainly topped the year’s weather news, but strong spring storms and drought conditions also garnered headlines. The tornado season started early, with eight twisters touching down on March 22nd. “The biggest outbreak of the season came on April 9,” Hillaker said. “We had 20 tornadoes on that afternoon and evening. The most damaging one hit Mapleton that evening.” Around 100 homes in Mapleton were destroyed while 14 residents were injured. An even 50 tornadoes touched down in Iowa this year – the last one on July 7.

“We had the earliest end to our tornado season since 1962,” Hillaker said. Following four straight years of extremely wet weather, 2011 was marked by a lack of significant rain across much of the state. Hillaker said sections of eastern Iowa had above normal precipitation, but it was very dry elsewhere. “Especially northwestern sections of the state where a pretty big part of Iowa is classified right now as (having) severe drought conditions,” Hillaker said.

On average, Iowa received 32-inches of precipitation in 2011. That’s about three inches below normal. Dubuque recorded the most precipitation over the year with 46 inches. Much of city was pounded with roughly 12 inches of rain in a 24-hour period between July 27 and 28. Ida County in northwest Iowa had the least amount of precipitation over the year with 20 inches, according to Hillaker. The year is ending with a rather unusual December featuring warmer than normal temperatures and just two-and-a-half inches of snow, on average, statewide. Snowfall totals over the previous four Decembers, between 2007 and 2010, have averaged between 13 and 24 inches.

(Pat Curtis/Radio Iowa)