Run of Severe Weather Outbreaks Could Continue


Published on March 9 2017 8:26 am
Last Updated on March 9 2017 8:48 am

The recent run of severe weather across the Midwest, including tornado outbreaks Feb. 28 and March 6, wasn’t necessarily uncommon for this time of year.

But it was above the norm.

A total of 297 tornado touchdowns were reported so far this year nationwide, as of last week. That’s about 201 percent of normal, according to Eric Snodgrass, University of Illinois atmospheric scientist and co-founder of Agrible, an ag risk-management company.

“2017, due to a lot of reasons, has an elevated risk of severe weather,” Snodgrass said at the WILL ag outlook conference at the Beef House in Covington, Ind. “I’m seeing a continuation of the very active weather pattern in coming weeks.”

Eric Snodgrass, University of Illinois atmospheric scientist
Eric Snodgrass, University of Illinois atmospheric scientist


Illinois and surrounding states have been pummeled this week by an outbreak of 29 tornadoes, straight-line winds and small hail.

The National Weather Service (NWS) office in the Quad Cities reported several tornadoes in northwest Illinois last Monday night and widespread wind gusts of more than 70 mph that damaged trees, power poles, outbuildings and home rooftops.

COUNTRY Financial received reports of similar damage from the same system, including damage to two machine sheds, an irrigation system and trees in Tazewell County. NWS reported an EF1 tornado touched down east of Green Valley and a stronger EF2 tornado touched down north of Delavan.

Recent temperature fluctuations and a very strong Pacific jet stream fueled the severe weather. A cold front could bring snow in its wake.

“March is looking very volatile,” Snodgrass said. “It usually is. It’s our transition month.”

If the weather pattern remains active, it could ease or eliminate dryness issues in parts of the state, particularly southern and western Illinois.

“March volatility could erase much of the drought in the central U.S.,” Snodgrass said. “You can wipe out the first stage of drought with one decent rain or snowfall event. If not, it (dryness) could become something to be concerned about (this growing season).”

Snodgrass isn’t too concerned about the forecast for the return of El Nino this summer. Weather models also predict weather during planting this spring could average a couple degrees above average.