Top 10 Weather Events
in 2003

Here is a listing of the Top 10 Weather Events for 2003 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 (8), Emergency Managers (6), and members of the media (1).

A sincere thank you to the Midwest Regional Climate Center and the Storm Prediction Center for use of graphics and/or links.

Updated: 12/13/05 - tjs

Contact Todd Shea, Warning Coordination Meteorologist, for additional information.

10. December 9-10 Winter Storm

A winter storm impacted the region on Dec.9th-10th bringing a fresh coating of snow and a round of very cold temperatures into the region. Parts of southeast Minnesota and central Wisconsin picked up 6-9 inches of snow over a two day period. Areas along the Mississippi River and into northeast Iowa received less snow. Early morning low temperatures on Friday, December 12th were below zero in many areas. Bryon, MN dropped to -18, Theilman, MN had -16, and Blair, WI had -10. Rochester, MN had -7 and La Crosse, WI had -2.

For graphics and related links to this winter storm, click below:

Jay Jocham, from Big Flats, Wisconsin (Adams Co.) sent in this image (left) after 8.5 inches of snow fell. NWS La Crosse (right) at -3 degrees and 3 inches of snow.

9. Dry August

With much of the summer dominated by drought, August 2003 was one of the driest on record. Rochester, MN had the second driest August on record with only 0.34" of rain.

Locations in which August 2003 was their driest on record included...

  • Charles City, IA - 0.74" (previous record 0.76" in 1897)
  • Elgin, MN - 0.37" (previous record 0.62" in 1971)
  • Lock & Dam #9 Lynxville, WI - 0.31" (previous record 0.80" in 1971)
  • Osage, IA - 0.46" (previous record 0.51" in 1969)
Click here to view a summary of August Precipitation.
Click here to view a summary of the 2003 Drought.
8. April Temperature Swings

After receiving 5-6 inches of snow with low temperatures in the teens, temperatures rebounded in less than a week to set new April records. On April 14th, Rochester, MN hit 87 degrees and La Crosse, WI hit 90. It was only the 10th time on record that La Crosse has reached 90 degrees during the month of April.

Click here to view temperatures on April 14, 2003
Click here to view record high temperatures on April 14, 2003.

7. May 10 Severe Weather

Numerous severe thunderstorms tracked across northeast Iowa and southwest Wisconsin during the early evening hours of May 10th. Hail up to 1 inch in diameter was reported in some locations. These same storms later produced two brief tornado touchdowns in southern Wisconsin, east of our area (NWS Milwaukee/Sullivan - Lafayette/Iowa Counties) after storm spotters in the Platteville, WI area reported funnel development. A total of 16 warnings were issued that evening.

Click here to view damage reports from May 10, 2003.

6. July 31 Severe Weather

During the afternoon of July 31st, a cluster of thunderstorms formed over northeast Iowa and tracked into southwest Wisconsin producing large hail and wind gusts up to 60 mph. Later that evening, more thunderstorms brought large hail, up to ping pong ball size, across parts of western Wisconsin, southeast Minnesota, and northeast Iowa. A total of 20 warnings were issued.

Click here to view damage reports from July 31st.
5. April 7 Spring Snow Storm

A band of heavy snow set up on April 7th across northeast Iowa, southeast Minnesota, and into southwest Wisconsin. The heaviest snow fell along the Minnesota-Iowa stateline but progressed into Wisconsin combined with wind gusts up to 30 mph.

Here are some snowfall totals:

  • 11.0 inches - Dorchester, IA
  • 10.5 inches - Brownsdale, MN
  • 10.0 inches - Austin, MN
  • 10.0 inches - Canton, MN
  • 9.8 inches - Victory, WI
  • 9.0 inches - Charles City, IA
  • 9.0 inches - Lime Springs, IA
  • 7.0 inches - Mt.Sterling, WI
  • 6.0 inches - Richland Center, WI
Click here to view total snowfall from April 1-8, 2003

4. Only 2003 Tornado - New Hampton, IA

A brief tornado touchdown was reported near New Hampton, IA on July 7th. It was rated an F0 on the Fujita Damage Scale. This by itself would be a fairly minor event, but the fact that it was the ONLY tornado reported in 2003 in the entire NWS La Crosse county warning area makes it much more unique. On average, about 9 tornadoes strike the region each year.

Click here to view a summary of this tornado.

3. March 4 Winter Storm

An early spring snowstorm hit northeast Iowa and southwest Wisconsin early in March. A narrow swath of snow brought totals of a foot or more in some locations.

Here are some snowfall totals:

  • 14.0 inches - Clermont, IA
  • 14.0 inches - McGregor, IA
  • 12.0 inches - Monona, IA
  • 12.0 inches - Postville, IA
  • 12.0 inches - Prairie du Chien, WI
  • 10.0 inches - Steuben, WI
  • 7.0 inches - Muscoda, WI

2. July 4 Squall Line

The most significant, and perhaps most organized, severe weather event of the year struck during the early morning hours of July 4th. A line of severe thunderstorms formed over the eastern Dakotas late on the previous evening, and then migrated east across our area between 2:30 and 6:30 AM CDT. Numerous wind gust reports over 60 mph were reported, with a peak gust of 66 mph recorded at the La Crosse airport. A total of 24 warnings were issued. Numerous trees and power lines were blown down as the storms quickly moved through.

Click here to view damage reports from that day.

1. Drought

For the second straight year, the lack of weather steals the top weather story. Much of 2003 was dominated by spotty or non-existant rainfall leading to a significant drought.

The dry conditions started over the 2002-2003 winter with the driest stretch on record. Follow that with a very dry last half to the summer and fall, precipitation totals were well below normal. From July 11th on, Rochester, MN had its second driest stretch on record with only 5.66 inches of precipitation. During the same stretch, La Crosse had 7.01 inches ranking as the 4th driest. Extreme drought level was reached in early October.

For a complete drought summary, click here.

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.