top 10 sign Top 10 Weather/Climate
Events in 2008

Here is a listing of the Top 10 Weather Events for 2008 in the NWS La Crosse Warning and Forecast Area. This includes areas of southeast Minnesota, northeast Iowa, and southwest/central Wisconsin.

This listing is the result of voting among NWS La Crosse staff members (9), Emergency Managers (7), and members of the media (6).

Updated: 1/6/09 - jsb

For additional information, contact:

Honorable Mention: Dry and Cool End to Summer

After a very wet spring, August 2008 was the 3rd driest on record at La Crosse, WI (only 0.69" of rain) while parts of north central and northeast Wisconsin slipped into severe drought conditions (D2). Rochester, MN also did not reach 90 deg F this summer, only the 4th year on record with no 90 degree days or warmer.

The following images show the temperature departures from normal for August 2008 (left; courtesy of the Midwest Climate Center) along with the drought conditions (right). (click on images to enlarge)

temperature departures for August 2008 drought conditions september 30 2008

10. July 7 Severe Weather

A squall line produced widespread wind damage across the region with a total of 24 warnings issued by the La Crosse NWS office. Wind gusts reached 70 mph in many locations knocking trees and power lines down. There was sporadic structure damage reported as well. A gust of 68 mph at the NWS La Crosse forecast office east of La Crosse blew down several trees as well.

The following images show a Doppler radar view of storms as they cross western Wisconsin along with tree damage near NWS La Crosse. (click on images to enlarge)

july 7 2008 Doppler radar view tree damage near NWS La Crosse from July 7 2008

9. July 10 Severe Weather

Scattered severe thunderstorms generated damaging wind (up to 70 mph), large hail, and even some additional flash flooding across much of the region. A total of 43 warnings were issued.

8. May 25 Severe Weather

Severe thunderstorms erupted across northeast Iowa and southwest into central Wisconsin producing numerous reports of large hail and flooding. A line of storms also moved out of eastern Minnesota into central Wisconsin producing wind damage.  A total of 22 warnings were issued with hail the size of tennis balls reported near Stanley, IA (Fayette County).

This same storm complex supported an EF5 tornado at Parkersburg/New Hartford, IA and was responsible for the large hail that impacted many communities. The tornado killed 8 people and produced over $100 million in damage. Tornado debris pulled into the storm fell from the sky in southwest Wisconsin within an hour of the storm.  For a complete summary of the EF5 tornado that struck Iowa that day (the first since 1976), use the following link from the Des Moines NWS office.

Here are two Doppler radar images of storms moving across northeast Iowa (left) and north central Wisconsin (right) during the evening of May 25th. (click on images to enlarge)

radar and warning graphic near Fayette County Iowa radar and warning graphic of storms on May 25

7. December 2008 Snowfall

December 2008 started out like December 2007 with a very active winter storm pattern and numerous days of snow accumulations. Several storms dropped heavy snow across parts of northeast Iowa, southeast Minnesota, and western to central Wisconsin. To review some of these storms, use the following links...

La Crosse, WI had their snowiest December (32.7").  It was the previous record was 30.4 inches set back in 1990.  Normally, 9.6 inches of snow falls during a typical December.  It was their fourth snowiest month and the snowiest month since January 1996 when 35.0 inches of snow fell.  Rochester, MN had their third snowiest December on record with 28.6 inches. This was their snowiest December since 2000 when 35.3 inches fell.  In addition to these sites numerous other locations set December snow records. 

To see a complete summary of the December 2008 snowfall records, use this link...

6. June 2008 Rainfall

Rainfall across the Upper Mississippi River Valley was above normal in June 2008, leading to several bouts of flooding both in the immediate region and across other areas of the Midwest. The largest amounts were across southern Wisconsin and through out most of Iowa. Many areas had in excess of 7" with Dorchester, IA (15.13"), St.Ansgar, IA (13.96"), and Lancaster, WI (12.63") all setting their wettest month ever record. Several other locations, including Decorah, IA, Viroqua/Westby, WI, and Strawberry Point, IA set records for the wettest June ever. Rochester, MN had a total of 7.15" of rain, the 9th wettest June on record.

Harry Hillaker, Iowa State Climatologist, estimated that the first two weeks of the month were probably the wettest in state history, following a very wet period dating back to August 2007.

The following two images (courtesy of the Midwest Climate Center) show June 2008 rainfall and some of the associated records that were set.  (click on images to enlarge)

june 2008 rainfall june 2008 rainfall records

5. June 12 Flash Flooding

After heavy rain and frequent thunderstorm activity had hit the region about 4-5 days earlier, more severe thunderstorms brought large hail and damaging wind to the area. It was the additional heavy rain though that caused more major problems, including significant river and flash flooding. A flash flood swept through the town of Potosi, WI leaving mud, rocks, and debris down the main streets. Rescues were needed in Austin, MN when flood waters rose very quickly, leading to the closure of a stretch of Interstate 90 and eventual flooding along areas creeks and the Cedar River. A total of 17 warnings were issued.

Here are some photos showing the flash flood in Potosi, WI (left; courtesy of Grant County, WI Emergency Management) and significant flooding in the city of Austin, MN (right; courtesy of the Star Tribune).  (Click on the image to enlarge)

flash flood in potosi wi june 12 2008 flooding in austin mn june 2008

4. April 25 Flooding / Severe Weather

Rounds of thunderstorms produced excessive rainfall (3-6") across northeast Iowa and southwest Wisconsin leading to flash flooding and eventual river flooding. The Turkey River in northeast Iowa crested nearly 7 feet above flood stage at Elkader, IA, and 11 feet above at Garber, IA. Many roads in the region were closed due to high water or damage.

Damage estimates were in the millions, especially Grant County, WI which had numerous communities impacted.

The state of Iowa had their 2nd wettest April on record with Fayette, IA setting a new monthly record of 11.98".  La Crosse, WI experienced their 3rd wettest April ever (6.74").

Here are some graphics showing the radar estimated rainfall and flooding in Grant County, WI of April 25, 2008.  The third image is a hydrograph (or river level plot) taken from the El Dorado, IA (Fayette County) area along the Turkey River.  (Notice the quick rise) (Click on the images to enlarge)

april 25 rainfall estimates flooding in grant county wisconsin apr 25 hydrograph for el dorado ia

3. January 29-30 Winter Storm

A sharp cold front moved through the region on January 29th dropping temperatures 40-60 deg F in a matter of hours. La Crosse, WI tied their largest temperature drop in a calendar day (53 deg F).  Rochester, MN had a drop of 52 deg F.

Hourly Temperatures on January 29, 2008 for La Crosse, WI and Rochester, MN

As the front passed, falling snow and strong northwest winds created blizzard conditions very quickly, especially in open areas of southeast Minnesota. Wind chill values the following morning were easily in the warning criteria range, as low as -40 to -50 deg F, causing most schools to close.

Use the following link to review this winter storm...

2. 2007-08 Winter Snowfall Totals / Cold

The winter of 2007-08 saw numerous winter storms and bouts of heavy snow hit the region, especially from northeast Iowa into southern Wisconsin where seasonal snowfall totals set records in many locations. On average about 6 winter storms impact the area, but there were 12 storms that hit in late 2007 and early 2008. Many locations ended up with over 70" of snow, including Platteville, WI (87.8"), Mauston, WI (89.5"), and Westby, WI (83.6").   The most snowfall recorded in the state of Iowa was at Dubuque with 87.6".  La Crosse, WI had 110 straight days with snow on the ground, the 3rd longest such streak, and at least an inch of snow on the ground through out the winter.  The snowfall total at La Crosse, WI for the season was 67.9" (5th greatest seasonal snow total).

Many locations in southern Wisconsin actually topped 100" of snow, including Madison and West Allis, WI (122.1").  Fourteen cooperative observing sites in western Wisconsin and 2 sites in northeast Iowa had their snowiest snow season ever.

Here is a graphic showing the percent of normal precipitation from Dec.1, 2007 through the end of February 2008 (courtesy of the Midwest Climate Center). You can see the track that most storms took, from eastern Iowa into southern Wisconsin.  (Click on the image to enlarge)

2007-2008 winter precipitation percent of normal graphic

In addition, it was a cold winter. Stanley, IA hit -30 deg F on January 24, 2008 for the coldest temperature in Iowa.  Necedah, WI (Juneau County) dropped to -35 deg F on January 20th for one of the coldest mornings in Wisconsin for the year.  In fact two women died in January 2008 from extreme cold or exposure in the state of Wisconsin.

1. June Flooding (and June 7 tornadoes)

The first two weeks of June were very active with copious amounts of rain and sporadic other severe weather. The weekend of June 7-8 was the worst for most areas when widespread 4-8 inch rainfall was recorded. Especially hardest hit was northeast Iowa and southwest Wisconsin.

Flash flooding damaged many roads and infrastructure initially. River levels began to rise quickly in response and eventually crested during the next several days. Record crests were seen at many locations, including Charles City, Elkader, and Decorah, IA.  In fact, at Charles City, IA the river level went so high above flood stage that the river gauge at that location was not able to measure the actual heights or crest for a time.  The Kickapoo River in southwest Wisconsin set records as well severely impacting communities along it.

The region was declared a federal disaster area and estimated damage costs were as high as $80 million in northeast Iowa, $35 million in southeast Minnesota, and $85 million in southwest Wisconsin.  In fact, most of the state of Iowa was hit hard by this flooding, some of the worst conditions since the Great Flood of 1993.  Estimated damages in Iowa have been estimated in the range of $10 billion.

In addition to the flooding, severe thunderstorms produced at least five (5) small tornadoes on June 7th.  The largest of these was an EF1 tornado that touched down just east of La Crosse, WI (near Barre Mills) and tracked to the east hitting several homes and damaging trees along the path.  Two people were also injured in Juneau County, WI from lightning.

A total of 95 warnings were issued during the June 7-8 weekend - a very busy stretch indeed!

Here are links related to the June 2008 severe weather:

Here is a graphic (courtesy of the Midwest Climate Center) showing rainfall during early June 2008.  (Click on the image to enlarge)

early june 2008 rainfall totals

Links to previous Top 10: is the U.S. government's official web portal to all federal, state and local government web resources and services.