top 10 sign Top 10 Weather/Climate
Events in 2009

Here is a listing of the Top 10 Weather Events for 2009 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 (10), Emergency Management Directors (9), and members of the media (10).

Updated: 1/11/10 - tjs

For additional information, contact:

Honorable Mention: December 23-25 (Christmas) Winter Storm

total snowfall december 23-27 A large and slow moving winter storm impacted much of the Midwest leading up to the Christmas Holiday in 2009. Heavy snow and significant drifting hit the Dakotas and Plains while warmer air brought a mixture of precipitation (snow, sleet, freezing rain, rain) to the western Great Lakes starting the evening of December 23rd and going through Christmas Day.

For our area, snow and freezing rain fell the first night, followed by mainly rain by Christmas eve. The snow returned on Christmas day but accumulations were fairly minor. The ice accumulation the first night (Dec.23-24) was the largest impact the area saw leading to difficult travel conditions for the holiday.

For additional information, an event web page is available at:

Honorable Mention: Dry and Quiet End to Summer

valley fog september 2009 A very quiet and persistent weather pattern established itself from late August into late September with dry conditions, light winds, and valley fog (image far left) nearly every morning.

Rochester, MN went 26 days (6th longest stretch) without any precipitation and La Crosse, WI went 22 days (2nd longest stretch). La Crosse ended up with the 10th driest September on record and only recorded 1.02" of precipitation, 2.38" below normal.  It was the driest September since 1998.

The quiet weather (and high pressure) also produced record light winds.  The La Crosse Municipal Airport had an average wind speed for the month of 5.0 mph (normal is 8.3 mph) and Rochester, MN had 6.5 mph (normal is 10.9 mph).

10. Drought

Abnormally dry weather from August 2008 through the early autumn of 2009 resulted in moderate (D1) to severe (D2) drought conditions across west central and central Wisconsin, southeast Minnesota, and a small portion of northeast Iowa. From August 2008 through August 2009, precipitation deficits ranged from 6 to 12 inches below normal. Fortunately the cool summer helped limit some damage by this drought. The drought in these locations was alleviated by a very wet October.

drought status as of August 11 2009

drought status as of September 15 2009

Drought conditions as of
August 11, 2009

Drought conditions as of
September 15, 2009

In north central Wisconsin a prolonged period of dry weather extended over the 3 years. Precipitation deficits during this time period were as low as 15 to 20 inches below normal. This resulted in exceptionally low lake levels and led to extreme drought (D3) status in mid September 2009. As the calendar year ended, abnormally dry (D0) conditions still persisted across Taylor County and the northern third of Clark County.

9. July 27 Tornado / Severe Thunderstorms

Scattered thunderstorms produced wind gusts near 70 mph, large hail, and an EF1 tornado across southwest Wisconsin. It was the first documented tornado in Crawford County, WI since 1987 damaging some crops and farm buildings. There was crop damage from large hail as well. A total of 37 severe weather reports were collected that day, along with the issuance of 15 severe weather warnings.

photo of july 27 2009 tornado in crawford county wisconsin radar view of july 27 2009 tornado in crawford county wisconsin

For a more detailed summary of this event, click here:

8. August 8th Severe Thunderstorms

Slow moving thunderstorms produced widespread 3 to 7 inch rainfalls across parts of Buffalo, Trempealeau, and Jackson Counties in western Wisconsin. Many area roads were flooded and the Buffalo River quickly rose out of its banks. The Hixton, WI area reported 6.50” with 4.22” at Mondovi. Counties were put under Flash Flood Warnings 18 times that day. Several days later, additional heavy rain fell in the same area leading to numerous mudslides.

Rainfall estimates August 7-8 2009 Doppler radar estimated rainfall from August 7-8, 2009 (Click image to enlarge)

7. April 24th Warm Temperatures / Severe Thunderstorms

Early season warm temperatures reached the upper 80s to lower 90s establishing new record highs in many locations. Rochester, MN recorded their warmest temperature (92 deg F) ever recorded that early in the calendar year.

A passing cold front clashed with the warm air though, leading to severe thunderstorms with large hail over parts of the area. Sixteen warnings were issued for 27 counties for hail as large as ping pong balls (2”) in parts of northeast Iowa and western Wisconsin. Over 30 reports of large hail were received.

hail stones from april 24 2009 hail stones from april 24 2009 hail stones from april 24 2009

6. October / November Flip-Flop Weather

October was a cold and wet month across the region. La Crosse finished with the 4th coldest October on record with over 5½ inches of precipitation. Rochester, MN had their 8th coldest October with just over 7½ of precipitation and a record 7.9” of snow.

By contrast, La Crosse finished November the 4th warmest on record with very little precipitation. Rochester had their 2nd warmest November ever and for the first time had a monthly average temperature warmer than October. Only 0.45” of precipitation fell in Rochester, MN in November as well.

5. January 13-16 Cold

average temperature from January 14-17 2009 Bitter cold and extreme low wind chill values impacted the region for several days. The coldest January since 1994 saw low temperatures of -25 deg F several times and 75 straight hours at Rochester where the temperature was below zero. Winds chills in Iowa hit -32F in Clayton County and -51F in Fayette County. In southeast Minnesota, wind chills hit -37F in Houston County and -58F in Mower County. In Wisconsin, wind chills of -30F to -45F were common.

Click here for a listing of temperature records set in the Midwest from January 15-18, 2009. (Courtesy of the Midwest Regional Climate Center)

4. Cold July

Many locations (7) set records for their coldest July on record as a persistent dry and cool air mass remained in place. Rochester, MN had their 2nd coldest July on record with the warmest high temperature of only 83 deg F. La Crosse, WI ended up the 3rd coldest July on record and ended up at or below average every day of the month. In fact, La Crosse ended up going 36 consecutive days with daily temperatures at or below normal, the 2nd longest stretch of days.


July 2009
Average Temperature

Previous Coldest July

Gays Mills, WI

65.0 deg F

65.0 deg F (1992) - tied

 Platteville, WI

65.5 deg F

66.3 deg F (1992) 

 Prairie du Chien, WI

66.3 deg F

68.3 deg F (1992) 

 Preston, MN

65.6 deg F

66.4 deg F (1971) 

 Richland Center, WI

64.6 deg F

65.5 deg F (1992) 

 Theilman, MN

64.9 deg F 

 66.2 deg F (1972)

 Waukon, IA

65.2 deg F

65.8 deg F (2004) 

Meanwhile other locations had one of their top ten coldest Julys.


July 2009
Average Temperature


Coldest July
on Record (year)

Austin, MN

65.4 deg F

2nd Coldest

63.8 deg F (1992)

 Caledonia, MN

65.4 deg F

2nd Coldest

64.5 deg F (1992) 

 Grand Meadow, MN

63.8 deg F

2nd Coldest

63.3 deg F (1992) 

 La Crosse, WI

68.1 deg F

3rd Coldest

66.9 deg F (1891) 

 Rochester, MN

65.4 deg F

2nd Coldest

64.2 deg F (1992) 

 Sparta, WI

66.1 deg F 

2nd Coldest

65.7 deg F (1992)

 Viroqua, WI

64.0 deg F

2nd Coldest

63.0 deg F (1992) 

Winona, MN

69.6 deg F

9th Coldest

67.9 deg F (1992)

Click here for a list of Midwest temperature records from July 22-31, 2009 - Courtesy of the Midwest Regional Climate Center.

In La Crosse, the warmest temperature was just 86 degrees on the 27th. Only July 1922 (also 86 degrees) failed to have a warmer temperature in a July. This was only the eleventh July since 1873 to fail to have at least one 90 degree day. The last time this occurred was back in 1993 when the warmest temperature of the month was 87 degrees.

graph showing daily maximum temperatures in july 2009 at La Crosse, WI

In Rochester, the warmest temperature was just 83 degrees on the 10th. No other July saw their maximum temperature colder. The previous record was 85 degrees in 1991, 1992, and 1993.

3. July 24 Severe Weather / Large Hail

hail damage in northeast Iowa from July 24 2009 Several rounds of thunderstorms produced hail up to softball size and wind gusts to 78 mph across northeast Iowa, southeast Minnesota, and extreme southwest Wisconsin. Prolific hail producers, these storms produced in excess of $250 million in damage to an estimated 400,000 acres of crops, especially in Iowa where section after section of land was stripped clean. Approx. 110 severe weather reports were collected that day with 24 warnings from the National Weather Service La Crosse office.
radar view from july 27 radar view from july 27 hail damage swath imaged by satellite  
Doppler radar image from around 1:30 p.m. CDT July 24th (first round of storms). Doppler radar image from around 5:37 p.m. CDT July 24th (second round of storms). Satellite view of hail damage in northeast Iowa (Courtesy of NASA).

2. June 17 Austin, MN Tornado

Severe thunderstorms produced large hail and two tornadoes that impacted parts of northeast Iowa and southeast Minnesota. The largest tornado (EF2) tracked across the north and northeast sides of Austin, MN damaging several homes, buildings, and many trees. Damage was several million dollars and there was one injury. Hail as large as 3” in diameter heavily damaged crops and homes in parts of northeast Iowa and southeast Minnesota as well. Strong winds and isolated flash flooding were also reported. Seventeen warnings were issued (7 tornado warnings).

June 17, 2009 was also one of the busiest severe weather days in the U.S. for 2009 with 484 reports.

Image (left) is from Brad Nelson, taken near Austin, MN.

For a more detailed summary of this event, click here:

1. December 8-9 Blizzard / Winter Storm

A large winter storm brought heavy snows to the region on Tuesday, December 8th and continued into the next day as northwest winds increased dramatically. With widespread 12” to 16” snowfall totals, the strong winds (gusts up to 45 mph) produced significant drifting and blizzard conditions, especially in open, rural, or higher areas. The storm was the 6th highest snowfall in La Crosse but broke many daily snowfall records.

This was a large (and well predicted) storm that impacted a large part of the upper Midwest, closing down schools and businesses for the better part of two days during mid week. True blizzard conditions were met over much of Minnesota, Iowa, and parts of Wisconsin.

Calendar day (24 hours) snowfall records set...

  • Black River Falls, WI (11.7")
  • Caledonia, MN (11.0")
  • Dodge Center, MN (8.6")
  • Friendship, WI (9.9")
  • Hokah 1S, MN (13.0")
  • La Farge, WI (9.6")
  • Lake City, MN (8.0")
  • New Hampton, IA (12.5")
  • Preston, MN (14.0")
  • St.Ansgar, IA (9.3")
  • Spring Valley, MN (14.0")
  • Strawberry Point, IA (14.0")
  • Winona, MN (11.0")
  • Wabasha, MN (11.0")
  • Zumbro Falls, MN (10.0")
  • For a more detailed summary of this event, click here:

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