A Look Back at 2009 in Central and Southeast Illinois


Season by Season Highlights:

Winter Season (December 1, 2008 through February 28, 2009):

Heavy snowfall near Birds (Lawrence County) on January 28.  Photo courtesy Steve Hardesty.  
Nearly a foot of snow was on the ground in Lawrence County after a late January storm.  Click image to enlarge. 

Seasonal Averages:

  • Temperatures -- Below normal.
  • Precipitation -- Above normal.

TEMPERATURES --  Unseasonably mild weather overspread the area just after Christmas, with highs well into the 60's on December 26-27.  The first couple of weeks of January were also warmer than normal, but some of the coldest weather in over 10 years affected portions of central Illinois by mid month.  Altona (northeast of Galesburg) saw lows as cold as 29 degrees below zero on the 16th, with daytime temperatures staying well below zero.  Peoria saw a low of 21 below zero on the 16th, its coldest temperature since 1994.  Significantly warmer weather affected much of the area the first half of February, with average temperatures as much as 30 degrees above normal on February 7, when highs reached the upper 60s west of I-55.

WEATHER -- A major ice storm struck areas north of I-72 on December 18-19th, with a quarter to three quarter inches of ice, causing many power outages.  More freezing rain fell days later on December 23-24. 

A squall line raced east across central and southeast Illinois on the afternoon of December 27, causing nearly 3 dozen wind damage reports.  Heavy rains of 1 to 2 inches caused river flooding which lasted through the end of the year.

A major winter storm affected southeast Illinois from January 26-28, with a large area south of I-70 receiving 9 to 13 inches of snow.  This particular storm produced devastating amounts of ice (1 to 2 inches thick) near the Ohio River.


Spring Season (March through May):

Levee breech along the Spoon River in Fulton County during May.  Photo courtesy Chris Helle.  
Levee breech along the Spoon River in Fulton County in mid May.  Click image to enlarge.  (Photo courtesy of Chris Helle.)

Seasonal Averages:

  • Temperatures -- Near normal in central Illinois, and above normal in east central and southeast Illinois.
  • Precipitation -- Above normal.

TEMPERATURES --  The spring started out with warmer than normal temperatures for March, but was close to normal in April and May.  Temperatures swung quite a bit in March, reaching the mid to upper 70's by the 6th in many areas south of I-72, after sub-freezing highs just a couple days earlier.   Highs reached the mid to upper 80's from April 24-26, setting some records in a few areas.   Another signficant warm spell occurred the last week of May, with highs in the 80's to lower 90's.

WEATHER --  Severe weather affected a large portion of central Illinois on March 8.  Two tornadoes occurred, one southwest of Springfield near Loami, and another near the Lawrenceville Airport, which also reported a wind gust of 91 mph.  Extensive wind damage occurred on the northwest side of Springfield due to downburst winds estimated to be from 90 to 100 mph.  After the severe weather moved through, gradient winds behind a strong cold front gusted from 40 to 65 mph for a few hours across the region.

Major flooding occurred on the Illinois River in mid March, after heavy rainfall occurred.  Henry had its 3rd highest crest on record on the 13th, at 31.52 feet, while Peoria saw its 4th highest crest on record.  There were several other days with heavy rain in March, and this amounted to double the normal March precipitation totals for much of the northern half of the state.  Peoria saw its wettest March on record, with a total of 7.49 inches.

Excessive rainfall occurred during the middle of May, especially west of I-55.  Amounts of 2 to 6 inches occurred over a 4-day period, highest northwest of the Illinois River.  Near record river stages occurred on the Spoon River, cresting 9 to 10 feet above flood stage.  Three levees were breached in Fulton County near Blyton, causing signficant flooding and the closure of state highways 9 and 116.  Two people were killed when they drove around barricades and were swept into the Spoon River.


Summer Season (June through August):

 Tornado damage in Williamsville on August 19.  
Tornado damage in Williamsville from August 19.  Click image to enlarge.

Seasonal Averages:

  • Temperatures -- Below normal.
  • Precipitation -- Above normal.

TEMPERATURES --  Canadian airmasses repeatedly affected the Midwest during the summer.  The  jet stream pattern kept much of central and southeast Illinois cooler than normal through July and August, with the number of 90 degree days significantly lower than normal. Bloomington saw its 2nd coolest summer on record, with an average temperature of only 69.6 degrees, with Lincoln experiencing its 3rd coolest summer on record (70.3 degrees).  Records for coolest July on record were established at Peoria (70.7 degrees) and Lincoln (69.4 degrees), with Springfield (71.2 degrees) just missing its record. 

WEATHER --  Several severe weather outbreaks occurred during the period. The major one was a tornado outbreak on August 19, which produced 7 tornadoes along and north of the I-72 corridor.  The strongest of these, rated at EF-3 intensity, touched down in Williamsville in northern Sangamon County, then moved northeast through Logan County before dissipating near Beason; an EF-2 tornado tracked across southern Sangamon and exteme southeast Morgan Counties, affecting Loami.

A significant wind event occurred the morning of August 4, as a bow echo of severe thunderstorms raced eastward across central Illinois between 6 and 11 am.  Widespread wind damage occurred, especially in Fulton and Vermilion Counties.  Additionally, an early morning outbreak on June 18th produced 60 to 85 mph winds from the Galesburg area southeast to the Indiana border near I-70, with additional severe storms on the 19th affecting nearly the exact same areas. 

River stages on the Illinois River, portions of which had been above flood stage since mid February, finally fell below flood stage during the summer.  Peoria had 89 straight days where the river was in flood (March 9 through June 5), setting a record.  Havana and Beardstown fell below flood on July 8, ending a streak of about 145 days of being in flood (4th longest streak on record).

Autumn Season (September through November):

October rainfall across central Illinois.   
October across the state was the 2nd wettest on record.  Click image to enlarge.

Seasonal Averages:

  • Temperatures -- Near normal.
  • Precipitation -- Above normal.

TEMPERATURES --  While September was near normal temperature-wise, October was cooler than normal and November much warmer than normal.  Springfield reported its 6th warmest November on record, and Peoria its 7th warmest.  Highs reached the mid to upper 70's as late as November 8th. 

WEATHER --  An extended period of dry weather affected the area from Labor Day through September 19th, and was the longest dry period across much of the area this year.  Some locally heavy rainfall occurred by the 20th, where the Jacksonville area reported nearly 5 inches of rain in just a few hours.  However, the main story was the excessively wet October.  Rainfall amounts in excess of 8 inches were common, and several locations received over 10 inches for the month.  Bloomington/Normal (10.18 inches) and Decatur (10.09 inches) both recorded their wettest Octobers on record.  River flooding was common due to these rains, and in some cases continued into November.  The Illinois River crested 9 feet above flood stage at Havana and Beardstown from November 6-7.

A cutoff low lingered over the area during the middle of November, resulting in rainfall totals over 3 inches from about the I-72 corridor southwest to St. Louis.  This caused renewed river flooding, although crests were not as high as earlier in the month.

Springfield and Lincoln both observed their 4th wettest autumn on record, while Peoria saw its 9th wettest.

The first reports of flurries for the season were from Lincoln and near Peoria on October 11th.


Winter Season to date (December 1-31):

 Intense storm system over the Midwest on Christmas Day
An intense storm system was centered over the mid-Mississippi Valley on Christmas Day.  Click image to enlarge.


  • Temperatures -- Below normal.
  • Precipitation -- Above normal.

TEMPERATURES --  The season began on a mild note, with highs in the mid to upper 50's common on the 1st.  Significantly colder weather followed the passage of a strong winter storm to our northwest, with highs on the 10th only reaching the teens in some areas.  Another cold snap at mid month brought lows in the single digits north of I-74.  Temperatures just before Christmas warmed into the 40's and 50's ahead of a slow-moving storm system, then quickly fell.  Sub-zero temperatures were found in areas west of I-55 by the 29th.

WEATHER --  An intense storm system tracked just to the northwest of the area early on December 9.  Heavy rainfall of 1.5 to 2 inches occurred in southeast Illinois ahead of this system.  The blizzard conditions associated with the storm remained just to the west and north, although up to 6 inches of snow fell across northern Knox County.  As the low pulled away from the area, winds gusted from 45 to 60 mph from mid morning through mid afternoon.

The next major storm system of the month was the result of a very slow moving low pressure system, that meandered northward across the Mississippi Valley. Precipitation began as rain, with a bit of freezing rain in the north, on the evening of the 22nd and the morning of the 23rd. Warm moist air was drawn into the system and the precipitation fell as mostly rain, until much colder air wrapped around the system and changed the precipitation over to snow on Christmas Day.  Rainfall amounts of 2 to 4 inches were common west of a Galesburg to Olney line.  After the cold air arrived, a wide swath of 3 to 6 inch snowfall totals were found along and west of the Illinois River by late on the 26th.

Peoria finished with its 6th wettest December on record, with Springfield seeing its 9th wettest.

 Preliminary statistics for the 35-county Lincoln NWS coverage area:

  • Highest Temperature:  98 degrees at Avon 5NW on June 24
  • Lowest Temperature:  -29 degrees at Altona on January 17
  • Most Rain in 24 Hours:  4.73 inches at Jacksonville on September 20 
  • Most Snow in 24 Hours:  10 inches at Neoga and Flora 5NW on January 27
  • Most Rain in 1 Month:  13.31 inches at Riverton 4NNE in October
  • Most Snow in 1 Month:  14.5 inches at Olney in January
  • Reported Tornadoes:  18.  By EF-Scale intensity:  EF0=11, EF1=5, EF2=2, EF3=1.  By county:  Sangamon 4, Vermilion 4, Morgan 2, Shelby 2.  One each in Christian, Clay, De Witt, Lawrence, Logan, Mason, McLean, Peoria, and Scott.  (County total is higher than 18 due to border crossers.)


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