Weather records usually rate snowfall based on how much falls in a season. But State Climatologist Harry Hillaker says there is data which rates how much snow falls in a calendar year and 2008 ranks pretty high.
"Most everyone will remember we had a lot of snow last winter and certainly we’ve had a lot of snow here in the beginning of the new winter of 2008/2009 and so that combination of a lot of snow — especially back in February and now again in December — we will also be in the top ten in terms of snowiest calendar years," Hillaker says.
Hillaker hasn’t been able to review all the data from December snowfall yet, but he says 2008 will rank anywhere from 2nd to 7th snowiest calendar years ever. The record year for snowfall in Iowa was 1983, when 51 inches fell. Hillaker says his calculations so far indicate the statewide average snowfall in 2008 has been just shy of 49 inches, which is 16-and-a-half inches above normal.
There were 105 tornadoes in Iowa in 2008 according to the National Weather Service. That is the same number of tornadoes that hit Iowa in 2001 and it means 2008 and 2001 are now tied for the second greatest tornado total ever in Iowa. Hillaker says the tornado season got off to a rather slow start.
"Things were very quiet during April and into the first basically two-thirds of the month of May and then things came to a very big change on May 25th which would have been the Parkersburg/New Hartford tornado which was the first F5 storm in Iowa in over 30 years," Hillaker says, "a very violent storm which unfortunately caused a lot of fatalities and caused a lot of damage."
Eight people were killed in that tornado, then on June 11th an F3 tornado struck at a camp in western Iowa, killing four boy scouts. "Between those two events, we had the most tornado-related fatalities in Iowa since 1968, you know, going back 40 years, and basically just a lot of tornadoes during the year and all concentrated pretty much in late May and the month of June," Hillaker says. "Not much really that much happened the rest of the year, but we certainly had plenty of activity in roughly a four or five week period."
In 2004, a record 120 tornadoes hit Iowa. In the past decade, though, Iowa has averaged about 56 tornadoes a year. "You never know what to expect in Iowa," Hillacker says.