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The long advertised rain event is now underway around the Midwest. Due to the size and slow movement of the system, showers and thunderstorms will be in and out of the forecast through Saturday. Locally heavy rains of 1-3 inches (locally more) are still anticipated throughout the region.

The rain in many areas has been long anticipated with weeks of dry weather and drought conditions since spring. As of Tuesday, Ottumwa in southeast Iowa was experiencing its driest year on record going back to the late 1890s. Just 15.33" of rain had been measured, well ahead of second place 1988 at 16.70". By the way that's over 14" below normal.

Cedar Rapids through Tuesday with 15.5" was experiencing its second driest year going back to 1895.

Below you can see how various climate districts rank for rain this year. 1 is the wettest out of 131 total years. Much of Iowa is in the top 25% of driest years

Anyway, there's no disputing the fact rain is needed. For one of the few times this year, the set-up is in place for widespread beneficial rains outside of the far south. This is due to a closed 500mb circulation that only slowly crosses the central U.S. It provides the moisture and long term lift to facilitate the event.

By Friday water vapor (PWATs), are shown exceeding 1.40 inches which is in the 90th percentile of climatology.

At least through Thursday, the initial surge of rain is driven by warm air advection. Strong lift and the addition of a low level jet has fueled elevated showers and embedded thunderstorms Wednesday night near and north of a warm front where moisture pooled. The remnants of this activity which was heavy in my central counties, will lift northward Thursday morning as the warm front enters my central counties. Rain is likely to end in the south very early and become more scattered in nature before ending in the north by early in the afternoon. The bottom line is much of Thursday afternoon is likely to be dry.

Temperatures will reflect the position of the warm front which should make it just south of I-80 by evening. My southern counties may reach the mid to upper 70s in the warm sector while up north, brisk E/SE winds and periods of rain will keep temperatures in the 50s, especially north of HWY 30. The EURO shows this for highs.

The lull in rainfall is likely to last until late Thursday night when the next round of forcing shows up ahead of the primary surface low and its associated cold front. A deep feed of tropical moisture is funneled directly up the Mississippi River Valley where it is wrung out by the advancing storm center. If enough heating can be achieved shear could be sufficient for some active thunderstorms, especially where the flow is backed along the warm-front and triple point near I-80. That threat is highly contingent on heating and the build-up of instability and primarily centered on SE Iowa. The mesoscale details need to be monitored Friday.

As for temperatures Friday, the track of the surface low will again be critical as it will determine the location of the warm front which appears to be slightly north of I-80. 70s will again be likely to the south while upper 50s to low 60s are expected in the far north near HWY 20.

Friday night the surface low travels from EC Iowa to the NE tip of Illinois by daybreak Saturday. After midnight Friday night strong NW winds are expected to develop driving in colder air and wrap around showers. These will be lighter than previous rains but will ensure damp, blustery, raw conditions remain through Saturday. The showers will end by Sunday but clouds and chilly windy weather will remain the balance of Sunday. Highs both days should range from 50 north to 55 south. Rest assured with the gusty winds it will feel substantially colder.

In general modeling remains consistent that much of the region will see 1.00 to 3.00 inches of rain. There may be some banding that allows local totals to exceed 5 inches just north of I-80 and on north to HWY 30. Doppler estimates at 2:00am Thursday night indicate some totals are already pushing 4 inches in Benton and Linn Counties near Cedar Rapids.

The lower end rain totals are expected to be over the south, especially south of I-80. I am concerned that the southern third of my area (especially south of HWY 34) ends up underperforming with totals of 1/2 to 1 inch. Here's some of the rain totals models are suggesting. It's been a long time since we've seen anything this substantial this widespread.


The NBM (National Blend of Models)

The Weather Prediction Center


The 12k NAM

The 3k NAM

The HRRR (Only out 48 hours through the day Friday....very impressive)!

All in all, this is a nice little storm, hopefully a harbinger of things to come this winter!

Speaking of that, here's the EURO weeklies EPO forecast through Thanksgiving, a teleconnection that we start watching this time of year. The EPO stands for eastern Pacific Oscillation. When it is negative it implies a western ridge that buckles the 500mb flow over the eastern U.S. opening the door for shots of cold. It starts negative after this storm, takes a little bump positive around October 23rd, then turns strongly negative the next 3 weeks. That signals below normal temperatures in November which I've been anticipating anyway with the El Nino coming on.

The WPO (western Pacific Oscillation) is also largely negative which reinforces the idea of ridging out west.

The GFS, an entirely different model is seeing the cold coming October 26th in its temperature anomalies.

None of this is set in stone yet and I'm just playing the conjecture game. However, with an eye toward winter, I would prefer to see the cold showing up instead of the opposite. I'll have more to say on these ideas in coming days. For now, it's all about the needed rain! Roll weather...TS



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