What Drought? Midwest Deluge Continues

Nick Wiltgen
Published: May 29, 2013

Feast or Famine: The Pendulum Swings

Drought or deluge.

In the Midwest, it seems those have been the only options for weather these past few years.

Two years ago, in 2011, the region witnessed severe floods on the Missouri River as well as record flooding along parts of the Mississippi River and lower Ohio River.

A year later, 2012 brought the "flash drought" that parched the nation's heartland and led to one of the largest drought zones in modern U.S. history., taking in nearly two-thirds of the contiguous U.S.


National Drought Status Darker shades of orange and red indicate more intense drought.

National Drought Status

National Drought Status

National Drought Status

Rainfall Past 7 Days

Rainfall Past 7 Days

Rainfall Past 7 Days

Rainfall Past 7 Days

While 46% of the country is still in drought as of the May 23 U.S. Drought Monitor report, that drought zone continues to be chipped away by repeated rounds of thunderstorms, especially on the eastern edge of the drought.

A zone from the Dakotas through Iowa into Illinois has been subject to repeated bouts of thunderstorms with heavy rainfall over the past several days, leading to a broad stripe of anywhere from 2 to 6 inches of rainfall.

Within that zone, a few places have seen even heavier totals, including these figures from the Memorial Day weekend:

  • 11.32 inches of rain in Normal, Ill.
  • 9 inches in Aurelia, Iowa
  • Up to 6.60 inches in Sioux Falls, S.D.
  • Up to 5.50 inches in Davenport, Iowa

Some of this heavy rain has fallen on existing moderate to extreme drought conditions over western Iowa, eastern Nebraska, and South Dakota. 

In fact, Monday morning, the Floyd River reached an all-time record crest, 7.2 feet above flood stage, in northwest Iowa near Alton. This river gauge has been keeping records for at least 60 years! 

(FLOOD ALERTS: Iowa | S.D. | Neb. | Kan. | Mo. | Ill.)

Not far away, the Little Sioux River reached a record crest at Cherokee, Iowa, Monday afternoon, flooding homes and highways. Surely the drought in this region has been wiped out by these recent rains.

Moderate flooding has also been reported on several rivers in eastern Iowa. And the rain is far from over across this region of the country, as we will see on the next page.

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