And the snow turns into record rainfall

July 8, 2014

 

Jordan Smith

Zenith City Weekly

 

Minnesota’s wettest June on record (dating back to 1871) is now officially in the books! A thunderstorm rainfall of 3.46 inches was reported in Waskish on June 12, making it the second wettest day ever recorded in Beltrami County.

 

Well above-normal rainfall was reported by several climate observers barely two weeks into June, much of it due to heavy thunderstorms. Halfway through the month, Hibbing was already totaling 5.67 inches; International Falls came in with 5.36 inches; and Watertown lived up to its name with 6.78 inches.

 

This trend of soggy Junes started in 2010 when Mapleton reported a rainfall total of 15.63 inches. The next year 8.11 inches came down over Slayton. And we all remember 2012, when 10.03 inches drenched Duluth, 13.93 inches soaked Floodwood (also living up to its name), 13.86 inches saturated Two Harbors, and 12.64 inches splashed across Cloquet. But Cannon Falls topped them all with 15.11 inches.

 

Many of the record-setting totals this year hit southern Minnesota in the middle of last month—5.2 inches in Lake Wilson on the 15th; two inches in Amboy on the 16th; 3.7 inches in Winona on the 17th; 3.51 inches in North Mankato on the 18th; and 5.1 inches in Redwood Falls on the 19th. So much precipitation leads to high humidity, and in some of Minnesota’s southern counties, the dew point rose to an uncomfortable 72 degrees. Up north, we didn’t see such sticky conditions due to fog and wind blowing off Lake Superior.

 

Possibly for the first time in Minnesota’s history, three separate June thunderstorms, all occurring within a week, each delivered over two inches of rain in a single location—something only likely to occur twice in a century. Between the 15th and the 18th, nearly seven inches came down on Waseca. By comparison, in all of 1991, the town reported a total of five thunderstorms with two inches of rain. Records date back to 1914.

 

Rock River in southwestern Minnesota and the Rainy River, between Minnesota and Canada, saw record flood cresting—the highest peak of a flood.

 

The all-time-record rainfall for June in any Minnesota location was 15.63 inches in Mapleton. Governor Mark Dayton declared a state of emergency in 35 counties and sent in the state National Guard to help.

 

There is a somewhat silver lining: For the first time since July 2011, the entire state is drought-free.

 

Not long ago, drought was a severe issue across Minnesota and Wisconsin (and across the nation). The U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook, released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) last month, projected drought relief across portions of Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri, and Kansas. Unfortunately, other states, such as Texas and Oklahoma, are not expected to see improvements in the near future.

 

The NOAA Climate Prediction Center, which issues monthly and seasonal outlooks, projects a warmer-than-normal start to July, but a wetter-than-average remainder of summer for western Minnesota. The forecast calls for an equal chance of above or below average rainfall during that period for the rest of the state.

 

Hard to believe it’s been two years since the flood of June 2012 washed out roads, culverts, and bridges. The Jay Cooke State Park Bridge has since been completely repaired, but much of State Highway 210, the main road through the park that once connected Thomson to Fond du Lac, remains closed. Access to the park from 210 is now only open through Thomson.

 

If you are driving and come to a point where water covers the road, remember the motto: Turn around; don’t drown. Even if it only appears to be an inch of water, it means the culvert beneath the road is unable to handle the amount of water coming through, so the water has risen until it covers the road.

 

The culvert may no longer even be there, as water can eat away at the earth around it, leaving a big empty space where the culvert once was. It may appear perfectly safe, but only about four inches of asphalt may very well be suspended over nothing but water and it will not be able to support the weight of your vehicle.

 

Fun fact: During the summer solstice (June 21 this year), total daylight in Lake of the Woods, the most northerly Minnesota location, is 16 hours and 10 minutes, leaving only 7 hours and 50 minutes of nighttime.

 

Not-so-fun fact: During summer solstice 22 years ago (June 21, 1992), there was frost over much of the Gopher State, resulting in damaged crops. Frost was reported as far south as Zumbrota. Never before or since in recorded history has widespread frost been seen in the state during the summer solstice.

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