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.

Featured Blogs

Little Change to 93L

By Dr. Jeff Masters
July 30, 2014

An area of disturbed weather located near 9°N, 45°W at 8 am EDT Wednesday, about 1150 miles east of the Lesser Antilles Islands (93L), has the potential to develop into a tropical depression by Thursday, but is struggling with high wind shear today. Visible satellite loops on Wednesday morning showed 93L had a well-defined surface circulation and some low-level spiral bands. However, infrared satellite images showed heavy thunderstorm activity was very limited, and the storm is fighting high wind shear of about 20 knots.

Rare Coastal California Lightning Storm Kills One and Injures 12

By Christopher C. Burt
July 29, 2014

A freak thunderstorm quickly developed off the Pacific coastline near Los Angeles Sunday afternoon and moved onshore at popular Venice Beach in Los Angeles County. Frequent lightning strikes killed one man and injured a dozen others. This may be the only time that a summertime beach lightning fatality has occurred in California history.

Live Blog: Tracking Hurricane Arthur as it Approaches North Carolina Coast

By Shaun Tanner
July 3, 2014

This is a live blog set up to provide the latest coverage on Hurricane Arthur as it threatens the North Carolina Coast. Check back often to see what the latest is with Arthur. The most recent updates are at the top.

Tropical Terminology

By Stu Ostro
June 30, 2014

Here is some basic, fundamental terminology related to tropical cyclones. Rather than a comprehensive and/or technical glossary, this represents the essence of the meaning & importance of some key, frequently used terms.

2013-14 - An Interesting Winter From A to Z

By Tom Niziol
May 15, 2014

It was a very interesting winter across a good part of the nation from the Rockies through the Plains to the Northeast. Let's break down the most significant winter storms on a month by month basis.

What the 5th IPCC Assessment Doesn't Include

By Angela Fritz
September 27, 2013

Melting permafrost has the potential to release an additional 1.5 trillion tons of carbon into the atmosphere, and could increase our global average temperature by 1.5°F in addition to our day-to-day human emissions. However, this effect is not included in the IPCC report issued Friday morning, which means the estimates of how Earth's climate will change are likely on the conservative side.