June ranked Iowa’s fourth wettest month in 141 years

Nick Fetty | July 11, 2014
The Skunk River near White Oak in Polk County on July 2, 2014. Photo by Carl Wycoff; Flickr
The Skunk River near White Oak in Polk County on July 2, 2014.
Photo by Carl Wycoff; Flickr

Last month’s recorded rainfall in Iowa was nearly ten inches, making it the fourth wettest month the state has seen since accurate records started being kept in 1873.

The week of June 15th saw rainfall levels nearly three times above average and later in month a Cedar Rapids teenager died after flash floods swept him into a storm sewer. Heavy rainfall led to flash flooding particularly in the central and eastern portions of the state while farmers in western Iowa saw damage to their crops caused by storms.

The Coralville Reservoir crested at 708.2 feet above sea level earlier this week and levels are expected to return to normal if weather cooperates. The University of Iowa has spent about $4 million on measures to protect university property while the City of Iowa City has spent more than $500,000. These figures do not include damage estimates.

The wettest year on record in Iowa was 1993 which saw 48.22 inches of rain. This led to flooding across the state, particularly Des Moines where about 250,000 residents were without water for as long as two weeks.

To monitor weather and water levels in your area, use the Iowa Flood Information System (IFIS).

No doubt: Iowa is getting wetter

Gene Takle

In case you missed it last Sunday, the Cedar Rapids Gazette gave a huge front-page spread to a piece that lays out some sobering data on Iowa’s recent trends in precipitation – much of it supplied by CGRER’s own Gene Takle at Iowa State.

Here’s a rundown of some of those key stats, as cited by the article:

  • The past three years have been the wettest 36 month period in the 138 years that Iowa has been keeping records. We beat the old record, set between 1990-1993, by about 10 inches of precipitation.
  • 2007 was the state’s fifth-wettest year; 2008, the fourth wettest; 2009 was the 11th wettest; and 2010 is on track to become the second-wettest year in state history.
  • From 1875 to 1950, Iowa had only two years with more than 40 inches of precipitation. Since 1950, the state has recorded eight such years, and this year likely will be the ninth.
  • Since 1910, days with more than 4 inches of precipitation have increased 50 percent in the Upper Midwest
  • During the late 1800s, Cedar Rapids averaged 4.2 days a year with precipitation of 1.25 inches or more – the amount at which runoff to streams typically becomes significant. By 2008, that figure had risen to 6.6 days per year, a 57 percent increase.

We also know that flooding in Ames and other areas in Iowa were worse this year than in the epically soggy 1993.  And June 2010 was the second wettest month in state history.

So does this weather seem to be the “new normal” as Gov. Chet Culver and others have described it? It’s hard to argue otherwise.