Decade Review Part 2

December 31, 2009 1 Comment

Time for the top 5 weather events/trends/stories from the past 10 years. Click here for yesterday’s list of 10 through 6. The only one I have some second thoughts about is no official 100 degree temps in Wausau. It turns out that 100 degree temps are quite rare in Wausau. However, since there was a lot of focus on AGW (global warming) during the decade, I find it interesting that we didn’t hit 100 degrees. The decade was warmer than normal though, and we will see some of that in the final 5.

Also, thanks to Ray for digging up some additional information on the derecho event of June 11, 2001. Click here (pdf) to read more.

Before getting into the final five, I wanted to mention that there were numerous significant severe storms that occurred every year (except this year). Each one had significant effects in certain areas. Each one could probably be your number 1 weather event of the decade. If a high wind storm came by and blew down your barn or a tornado damaged your house, then your list would end with that storm. In the list I have compiled, I have tried to consider what storms and events had the most impact across most of the area, so that is why you might not find some individual severe storms on the list.

5. Warmest January on Record in 2002 and 2006 (officially in Wausau and unofficially for most of Northcentral Wisconsin). Over the last couple of days, I have mentioned how unique it is to break a monthly record. Breaking the same record twice in a decade is even more special. The mean temperature in January of 2002 was 25. Pretty amazing! Then in 2006 the mean temperature ended up a whopping 26.8! The coldest day in January 2006 was the 18th when the low temperature was 5 andthe high temperature was 17. Just think about that for a minute. January is known for being bitter cold at times, yet in 2006 the temperature never dropped below 5. There were only 2 days withlow temps in the single digits. The average high temperature was 32.1! Needless to say, it was not a good month for snow and winter enthusiasts.

4. Flash flood June 10-11, 2002. (Correction: While there was heavy rain on the 10th and 11th, the major flooding which caused road washouts and near dam failures occurred on June 21-22) The 3rd year of the decade made the list yesterday as the “year of tornadoes” and it makes it again today with the decade’s largest flooding event – in Northcentral Wisconsin. There was even worse and more historic flooding in southern Wisconsin during the last couple of years but this was mostly out of our viewing area. Our biggest flooding event started on the tenth ( see correction, statement above) with a record rainfall of 1.78 inches in Wausau on the 10th. Farther south in the area, particularly southern Wood and Portage counties and northern Juneau and Adams counties, several inches of rain fell andprompted officials to issues warnings about potential dam failures around the Town of Rome. If memory serves me correctly, there was at least 5 inches of rain and perhaps as much as 7 inches in these areas on the 10th of June. Then, during the early morning hours on the 11th another complex of thunderstorms formed and produced heavy rain in western Marathon county. In Wausau the official rain total was only 0.79 inches but (again if memory serves me correctly) radar estimates were as high as 10 inches in western Marathon county. This led to an evacuation in Stratford andmany roads with washouts, including highway 153.

3. EF3 tornado and large hail June 7th, 2007. This one is probably fresh on everyone’s mind since it occurred just 2.5 years ago but if you need to review take a look at this report from the NWS of Green Bay. This was perhaps the largest tornado in the state of Wisconsin during the last 10 years. The Stoughton Tornado of August 18th 2005 was rated an F3. It was more “picturesque” andcreated more damage to man-made structures, but it was not on the ground as long as the June 7th tornado. Also, the June 7th tornado might have been rated higher than EF3 except for the fact that it did not hit many man-made structures. You might remember that the Bear Paw resort was completely destroyed. Other than that, only 14,000 acres of trees bit the dust. Just in case you don’t think this tornado or this day belongs this high on the list, take a look at the view from space the next day. When a tornado track can be seen from space, that is pretty dramatic. I happened to go fishing in southern Langlade county later that summer andcame across the swath of trees knocked down by the tornado. It is the most amazing weather damage I have seen. It looked as if a giant had mowed a half mile wide path for 40 miles through the woods. As if the tornado was not dramatic enough, The second largest hailstone ever recorded in Wisconsin fell in Port Edwards on that day. It was 5.5 inches in diameter. People in southern Wood county remember that day well as baseball and softball sized hail fell in Wisconsin Rapids wreaking all sorts of damage.

2. Record warmth in February and March of 2000. The number 2 weather event occurred at the very beginning of the warmer than normal decade in Northcentral Wisconsin. This might seem out of place because it is not as memorable as the flooding, the hail, or the tornado, but just because it is not as memorable does not mean it was not extreme or dramatic. For those who remember (and who don’t like winter so much), you probably wish it happened every year. An extreme warm spell hit the area in late February of that year and continued in early March. Not only was it an abrupt end to winter, we had the highest number of consecutive record highs since 1936. From February 22nd through March 8th there were 12 record highs either broken or tied. There were 6 consecutive record highs from March 3rd to March 8th. The record high of 76 on March 7th was the earliest 70 degree reading in Wausau’s history. Prior to March of 2000, the earliest 70 degree reading was a record of 73 on the 19th of 1921. Not only that, the very next day, the high temperature was a record 72! Not only that, we also recorded the warmest February temperature EVER…TWICE!! The record high of 59 on the 26th of February and 59 again on the 29th beat the old record of 58 set on the 21st of 1930. The only other streak of record warm weather that can compare to this event was in July of 1936 when we had record high temperatures on 9 consecutive days (8 now that the record on the 15th of July was eclipsed in 2006).

drumroll please…………..

1. 7 consecutive years of drought. If you follow the blog you probably could have guessed this as my number one weather story of the past 10 years. It was the most widespread and persistent weather trend of the last 10 years and also had the biggest total financial, psychological, and social impact. We didn’t experience official drought conditions continuously for 7 years, but moderate to severe drought did occur at different periods in each year from 2003 through 2009. The drought conditions (when they did form) were most prevalent in the northern half of the area – from Marathon county on north – during the growing season. Growing season after growing season, farmers were on edge waiting for rain that sometimes did not come in time to save the crops. Year after year, reservoirs in northern Wisconsin were drawn down an in some cases went completely dry. The 7 consecutive years of drier than normal weather has taken its toll on natural lakes as well. I noticed many lakes in the northwoods down at least 2 to 3 feet this summer. Precipitation has been below normal in Wausau each year for the last 7 years. If you include the 4.82 inch deficit in 2009, we have missed out on nearly 40 inches of rain since 2003.

Drought Continues in the NorthwoodsDrought Continues in the Northwoods

A little anecdotal story from yours truly: Around the year 2000 I went trout fishing on a little stream in northern Lincoln county. I caught a couple trout. It was a nice stream about the size of the little Rib River at the time. I went back around 2005 and found only a trickle….literally, just a trickle.

And this story continues into the new decade. The latest U.S. Drought monitor indicates a moderate to severe drought persisting in the Northwoods. Also, other than lake effect snow, it doesn’t look like any significant precipitation is headed for Northcentral Wisconsin for the next couple of weeks. Get ready for a cold and dry start to 2010.

Have a happy new year! Meteorologist Justin Loew

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