News Article

Heavy Rains Relieve Drought Concerns in Northern Illinois

By Aces Staff
May 7, 2003

May 7, 2003

“Widespread rains across Illinois since April 28 and into early May, and heavier amounts in northern Illinois, which needed it most, should alleviate drought concerns. Northern Illinois had been under drought conditions through the end of April,” says State Climatologist Jim Angel of the Illinois State Water Survey (, a division of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

“Soil moisture and streams are now in much better shape at the start of the growing season because portions of the northern third of Illinois received in excess of 4 inches of rainfall in a band between Mercer and Cook Counties. Much of the rest of the state received between 2 and 4 inches during this 10-day period,” says Angel.

Most of Illinois has been short on precipitation since September 1, 2002. Until these recent rains, northern Illinois was 9–9.5 inches below average; central Illinois was 7–9 inches below average; and southern Illinois was 3–6 inches below average. Only the southeastern corner of the state was near average. Impacts were minimized because these shortfalls occurred during the nongrowing season when demand is low. Recent rains have not entirely eliminated the deficits, but they came just in time to recharge soil moisture and streams.

Severe weather has accompanied the heavy rains. There were numerous reports of hail and wind damage, especially from storms on April 4, 24, 29–30, and May 1, 4, and 6–7. The tornado season officially began on April 4 with a confirmed tornado in Logan County and unconfirmed tornado reports in Mason, DeWitt, and Clinton Counties. These events yielded no injuries or deaths and very little damage.

Northern Illinois took the brunt of severe weather on April 30 when storms generated widespread reports of wind and hail damage. There were also several reports of tornadoes in Mercer, Henry, and Bureau Counties, but no injuries or deaths resulted. National Weather Service (NWS) personnel confirmed the Mercer County tornadoes.

The latest reported tornado in southern Illinois on May 6 resulted in at least 2 deaths and 20 injuries. Illinois averages 1 or 2 deaths from tornadoes annually, but that number fluctuates. from year to year. For example, there were no tornado-related deaths in 2000 and 2001, but 4 such deaths in 2002.

“April was the 31st warmest April since 1895, with a statewide average temperature of 53.3 degrees, 1.1 degrees above average. Precipitation during April was below average, with a statewide total of 3.32 inches, 0.48 inches below average (87 percent of average). However, this was better than the 63 percent of average in March and the 67 percent of average in September–March,” says Angel.

April temperatures ranged from a low of 12 degrees at Streamwood on April 5 to a high of 89 degrees at Moline, Monmouth, and Stelle on April 15.

“According to the NWS, the pattern for Illinois appears to be wet for the next two weeks. If these rains develop, they should eliminate any lingering concerns about drought,” says Angel.