February 2011 Weather and Its Impacts on Missouri

Pat Guinan
State Climatologist
Commercial Agriculture/University of Missouri Extension

A wandering jet stream influenced Missouri's weather pattern during February resulting in large temperature swings and varieties of precipitation. Much below normal temperatures dominated the first 12 days of the month but transitioned toward seasonable to warmer than normal conditions for 10 days thereafter. The final week of February trended back downward to colder than normal weather. Overall, temperatures across northern, central and southwestern sections averaged 1-3° below normal for the month, whereas southeastern portions of the state were near to slightly above normal.

The state witnessed bitterly cold conditions on the 3rd and 10th of the month when temperatures dropped below zero in most locations. Many areas experienced their coldest temperatures in more than a decade including Springfield, which established record lows of -9°F and -10° on the 3rd and 10th, respectively. Columbia experienced their coldest temperatures in 15 years when the mercury dropped to -10°F on both the 3rd and 10th of the month. Some of the coldest statewide temperatures were found over parts of west central Missouri where weather stations located near Hamilton and Brunswick bottomed out at -20°F and -21°F, respectively, on February 3rd. Sedalia and the southwestern community of Seneca dropped to -22 and -20, respectively, on the morning of February 10th.

Above normal temperatures occurred from the 15-20th with near record to record high temperatures occurring on a few of these days. Kansas City and Columbia set record highs of 74°F on the 18th and Joplin broke their record on the 19th when the mercury climbed to 75°F.

With the exception of far northwestern Missouri, statewide precipitation totals averaged above normal and were generally between 1-3 inches across northern sections, 3-5 inches over central and southern sections, and 5-7 inches in the Bootheel. Some of the lowest totals were confined to the northwestern tip of the state where Maryville and Burlington Junction reported 0.67 and 0.60 inches, respectively. Alternatively, the Bootheel community of Caruthersville reported their 4th wettest February on record with a whopping 9.40 inches.

A highly unusual and historic blizzard occurred on February 1-2 and dropped 15-23 inches of snow over much of southwestern, west central, central, north central and northeastern Missouri. Several locations established all time 24-hour snowfall totals and there were several reports of thundersnow from Joplin into portions of central and northeastern Missouri. Snowfall rates approached or exceeded 2 inches per hour in many locations and numerous wind gusts in excess of 35 mph occurred during the event, creating whiteout conditions and numerous road closures. Portions of I-44 were closed in southwestern Missouri and an unprecedented closing of Interstate 70 occurred from Kansas City to St. Louis. Additionally, the University of Missouri-Columbia campus was closed for an unprecedented 3 consecutive days. Preliminary numbers from the Missouri Department of Transportation indicated clean up costs from the blizzard were $7.7 million.

Some of the higher 24-hour snowfall totals in the state include:
Feb 1-2, 2011

Location Snowfall (in.)
Holden 6.2S* 24
Warrensburg 23
Boonville 3.7SE* 22.5
Green Ridge 3.3SW* 22
Windsor/Calhoun 22
Brunswick 21
Sedalia 21

*CoCoRaHS observer

The official 24-hour state snowfall record for Missouri is 24 inches at Cape Girardeau on February 25, 1979.

Another major snow event impacted southeastern Kansas, northeastern Oklahoma, northwestern Arkansas and extreme southwestern Missouri on February 8-9. Portions of McDonald and Barry counties received more than a foot of snow and an observer near the Arkansas state line, in McDonald county, reported 14 inches.

A notable severe weather event occurred during the last two days of the month when severe thunderstorms swept through the state and resulted in numerous hail and wind damage reports. Most of the severe weather reports were bounded within a region from Joplin to Kansas City and extending northeastward to between Hannibal and St. Louis. Official storm surveys documented 2 tornadoes of EF1 and EF0 intensity touching down just south of Shelbina, in Monroe county. Two EF0 tornadoes were also reported in Pike county. Strong microburst winds approaching 90-100 mph were documented in Randolph and Ralls counties.

The precipitation events during the month maintained the very wet soil moisture conditions existing across northern and central sections of the state and increased soil moisture recharge over southern portions. The thawed out soils during the latter half of the month led to muddy conditions and made it difficult for farmers to get food to their livestock. These conditions as well as the heavy snow events earlier in the month posed stress to cattle and newborn calves and lambs.