Ag Weather Forum
Bryce Anderson DTN Ag Meteorologist and DTN Analyst

Tuesday 03/25/14

Harsh Midwest Winter Details


Illinois River ice near LaSalle, Ill. (Photo courtesy LaSalle County Emergency Management Agency)

Much of the Midwest experienced the most severe winter in 30 years. Based on preliminary data this was the eighth coldest winter on record for the region. Snowfall ranked in the top five for Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.

The winter mean temperature for Embarrass, Minnesota was -5.5 degrees F, with 32 of 91 days recording a minimum temperature of -30 deg F or colder, a Minnesota state record. There were seven days with minimums of -40 deg F and lower.

Snowfall in Detroit, Michigan as of the end of February totaled 79.2 inches, the second highest on record. Average snowfall for this period is 33.9 inches. Detroit measured a record 39.1 inches in January. Chicago totaled 67.4 inches of snow during the winter, the third highest on record.

A storm on January 5--6 led to blizzard warnings in some locations and winter storm warnings over a broad swath of the Midwest. Snowfall amounts ranged to more than a foot in some parts of Indiana and Michigan and more than 6 inches in most of Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, northwest Ohio, and southern Michigan.

Agriculture Impact

Subzero temperatures and thin snow cover over the southern portions of the Midwest has likely resulted in some damage to the dormant winter wheat crop.

Transportation Impact

Winter storms hampered travel throughout the winter. Thousands of flights were delayed or canceled due to snow and ice. Train traffic was halted by severe drifting resulting from the winter storms that hit the region. Blowing and drifting snow closed roads and interstates a number of times.

Persistent bitterly cold weather resulted in many rivers becoming choked with ice as much as 30 inches thick. This resulted in restrictions on barge traffic on the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers.

Environment and Infrastructure Impact

Ice jams on rivers led to flooding in parts of Illinois and Indiana.

Many communities depleted their snow removal budgets due to the persistent cold and frequent snow. Pothole repair is a major concern and expense for many municipalities, both for repair and paying claims for damaged vehicles.

A propane shortage resulted in prices more than doubling from summer levels. Minnesota passed emergency heating assistance legislation to provide financial assistance to homeowners and businesses to pay their heating bills.

Cryoseism, or "frost quakes," were reported over parts of the Midwest toward the end of January and early February.

The frost level at the end of February ranged from about a foot north of the Ohio River to as much as five feet in northern Minnesota. Frozen pipes and water main breaks were common through the Midwest.

Many school districts used their allotment of snow days and then some due to the snow and days with extreme wind chill. Some districts will need to extend their school year to make up the time.

Drought conditions and a deeper than normal frost depth across Missouri are expected to lead to die offs of turtles and perhaps amphibians.


Snow and ice pack in the Mississippi River basin is mostly well above average, particularly from eastern Minnesota and northwestern Wisconsin into northeastern Iowa, where 2 to 4 feet of snowpack is common. However, with streamflows along the Mississippi River at low levels for this time of year, this snowpack should produce only minor flooding along the Mississippi River with average rainfall this spring.

Although snowfall has been much above normal across most of the northern half of the Midwest, the liquid water content of the snow cover has not been significantly above normal. The exception is in northwestern Wisconsin and in northern Illinois where the snow water equivalent of the remaining snow cover is well above normal for this time of year. The chance of flooding is above normal in northern Illinois, northwestern Wisconsin, and southern Michigan due to above normal water content of the snow.

Additionally, significant frost depths of 2 to 3 feet will impede infiltration of water until the ground thaws. The deeply frozen soils will be a factor to watch as snowmelt and rainfall on frozen ground will run off quickly.

However, the likelihood of flooding is going to be greatly dependent on how the spring weather unfolds.

Stream flows in the Ohio River basin are expected to be near normal through the spring.

The full report--and others--are available here:…




Posted at 2:09PM CDT 03/25/14 by Bryce Anderson
Comments (1)
There is almost no snow cover south of MPLS so its gonna have to rain alot to have any flooding.
Posted by Paul Beiser at 1:16PM CDT 03/26/14
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