Skip to main content

Another Traumatic June Flash Flood

Another Traumatic June Flash Flood

Following the devastating flash flooding in Goodhue, Rice, and Dakota Counties last Thursday and Friday (June 14-15) and the hail and wind storms of June 17 and 19 earlier this week (hail up to 1.5 inches in diameter and wind gusts up to 83 mph), another larger and more traumatic flash flood encompassed much of northeastern Minnesota over June 19-21 (Tue-Thu) this week. A slow moving thunderstorm complex brought 3 to 10 inches of rainfall over portions of Cook, Lake, St Louis, Carlton, Itasca, Cass, Crow Wing, and Aitkin Counties. A report filed by a National Weather Service employee in NE Duluth mentioned a measurement of 10.10 inches of rainfall in the northeastern part of Duluth. Officially the National Weather Service in Duluth reported new record daily rainfalls back to back, 4.14 inches on the 19th, followed by 3.11 inches on the 20th, for a total of 7.25 inches. The climate record from Duluth shows very few stormy periods that are analogous to what happened there this week. Arguments can be made that thunderstorms on September 5-6, 1876 (6.48 inches); July 20-22, 1909 (7.83 inches), and August 15-21, 1972 (7.91 inches) might be comparable, but of course the Duluth neighborhoods and landscape in general were vastly different in those times. It is expected that damage to infrastructure in Duluth will be considerable this time around, perhaps approaching or exceeding $100 million, compounded by a prolonged recovery and reconstruction period.

Some other observers reported record rainfalls: on June 19th, Grand Rapids with 4.78 inches, Hibbing with 2.57 inches, and Moose Lake with 3.12 inches; on June 20th, Wright with 6.11 inches, Two Harbors with 4.65 inches, Pine River Dam with 4.24 inches, Brainerd with 4.20 inches, Aitkin with 3.86 inches, and Grand Portage with 3.40 inches. This is just a sampling, as too many other observers reported record rainfall to report here.

Additionally a new statewide daily rainfall record was set on June 20th, with 7.41 inches reported from the Island Lake cooperative observer in St Louis County (about 18 miles north of Duluth). This broke the old statewide record for June 20th of 5.93 inches at Georgetown in 2000. This was the 2nd statewide daily rainfall record broken this month. Last week Cannon Falls set a new statewide rainfall record with 8.83 inches on June 14th, and this was associated with flash flooding over Goodhue, Rice, and Dakota Counties.

The St Louis River near Scanlon reported a new all-time record flood crest near 16.62 feet (flow volume over 45,000 cfs, about 15 times normal volume) beating the old flood crest record of 15.8 ft on May 9, 1950. The Kettle River at Sandstone also set a new record flood crest with1 17.55 feet, surpassing 15.38 feet on July 23, 1972. In fact many other watersheds flooded including the Knife River, Crow Wing River, Pigeon River, Cloquet River, and Mississippi River at Aitkin among others. The discharge volume on these watersheds flooded many roads, highways and parks.

This type of storm reminds us that climate is changing in Minnesota. Not only in terms of quantity of precipitation, but in the character of precipitation as well. In recent decades a larger fraction of our annual total precipitation is coming in the form of intense thunderstorms.

June monthly rainfall totals approaching record values

Many Minnesota weather observers are reporting near-record rainfall amounts for the month (and it is only June 22nd!). Red Wing Dam has reported a record 10.95 inches for June so far. Cannon Falls now reports 15.11 inches for June which is only the 4th time in Minnesota's climate history that an observer has reported 15 or more inches for June, the others were 15.00 inches at Milaca in 1944, 15.48 inches at Camp Norris in 2002, and 15.63 inches at Delano in 2002. With 8 days left in the month, Cannon Falls may yet surpass Delano for the largest June rainfall total in state history.

Duluth, of course, has already set a new June total rainfall record with 9.51 inches, while Two Harbors has also reported a record June rainfall of 9.33 inches. Other northeastern Minnesota climate stations reporting record amounts of June rainfall include Wright with 12.19 inches and Island Lake Reservoir with 10.65 inches.

More on the Duluth storm and flooding can be found at these links:

New Seasonal Climate Outlook

The NOAA Climate Prediction Center released the new seasonal outlooks on Thursday this week. For the period July through September the outlook favors above normal temperatures for southern Minnesota, and equal chances for above or below normal temperatures for northern counties. The precipitation outlook is for equal chances of above or below normal values over the period. Our current trend certainly favors wetter than normal conditions, as we are experiencing one of the wettest starts to a growing season in many eastern sections of the state.

Weekly Weather potpourri

The NOAA National Hurricane Center was watching the development of a low pressure system off the Yucatan Peninsula this week. It may develop into a tropical storm which would have implications for the southeastern coastal states of the USA this weekend and next week. They were sending out a air force reconnaissance aircraft to make measurements of this storm system.

In the Western Pacific, Typhoon Guchol lashed southwestern Japan with heavy rains and high winds this week. Rains of several inches (3 to 6 inch amounts) were accompanied by winds up to 81 mph. Weather conditions caused the disruption and stoppage of airline and rail services for a time. Yet, more rainfall was expected this weekend across Japan.

A recent paper in the journal Science documents a historical correlation between unusual warm periods in the Arctic Region with similar periods in the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. The correlation and the magnitude of the warm periods back 2.8 million years came as somewhat of a surprise to the international team of scientists who extracted lake sediment cores from the Arctic Region. You can read more about this paper here.

MPR listener question

This last winter you spent a good deal of time speaking about the threat of drought for this growing season. Now we are experiencing one of the wettest ever early growing seasons in Minnesota. Has this relatively rapid reversal in the moisture pattern ever occurred in the past?

Answer: Indeed, this is what happened to end the very damaging 1976 drought in Minnesota. Having barely survived the 1976 drought many western Minnesota farmers were pessimistic about 1977. Average statewide precipitation in 1976 was less than 16 inches. But then 1977 delivered the wettest year of the 20th Century with a statewide average precipitation of nearly 34 inches. All was good that year. Similarly a 1910 drought (statewide precipitation under 15 inches) brought bankruptcy to many Minnesota farmers (including my grandfather), but then 1911 brought a wet year (statewide average of nearly 28 inches of precipitation) and all was well again.

So, though rare in frequency, these dramatic and rapid reversals in moisture patterns have indeed happened in our Minnesota past.

Twin Cities Almanac for June 22nd

The average MSP high temperature for this date is 79 degrees F (plus or minus 8 degrees F standard deviation), while the average low is 60 degrees F (plus or minus 7 degrees F standard deviation).

MSP Local Records for June 22nd

MSP weather records for this date include: highest daily maximum temperature of 98 degrees F in 1911; lowest daily maximum temperature of 57 degrees F in 1906; lowest daily minimum temperature of 42 F in 1960; highest daily minimum temperature of 75 F in 1923; and record precipitation of 2.12 inches in 1930.
Average dew point for June 22nd is 56 degrees F, with a maximum of 80 degrees F in 1983 and a minimum of 27 degrees F in 1972.

All-time state records for June 22nd

The state record high temperature for this date is 107 degrees F at Canby (Yellow Medicine County) in 1988. The state record low temperature for this date is 20 degrees F at Kelliher (Beltrami County) in 2001. State record precipitation for this date is 5.42 inches at Itasca State Park (Clearwater County) in 1957; and no snowfall has been reported on this date.

Past Weather Features:

June 22, 1917 brought frost to northern Minnesota. International Falls reported 31 degrees F, while Brainerd reported just 30 degrees F. At the Experimental Farm near Duluth it was just 29 degrees F with damaged produce crops. It was also 29 F at Cloquet. Further inland at Meadowlands the thermometer fell to 28 degrees F.

June 22, 1957 saw strong thunderstorms cross the state bringing hail, high winds, and heavy rainfalls. Many observers reported over 3 inches of rain, while Winsted, Young America, St James and Hinckley reported over 4 inches. Many roads and farm fields were flooded.

In 1988 June 22nd marked the end of a five-day Heat Wave that plagued the state. Many observers reported five consecutive days with afternoon temperatures in the 90s F, causing crops to wilt and show signs of moisture stress. Later that month observers at Canby and Browns Valley would report temperatures as high as 107 degrees F.

About 4:00 pm on June 22, 1919 an F-5 (winds 261 mph) raced across Otter Tail County and leveled 400 buildings in Fergus Falls leaving "a vast acreage of kindling." The famous Lake Alice Grand Hotel was destroyed. The funnel traveled 20 miles on the ground and at times was 400 yards across. It injured 200 people and killed 57 others. It took Fergus Falls a decade to rebuild. 


Chance of showers and thunderstorms on Saturday, then drier with near seasonal temperatures for Sunday through Wednesday. Getting warmer towards the end of next week with a chance for showers and thunderstorms returning.

Print Friendly and PDF