1983: August was a month of searing heat seldom seen in Iowa since the Dust Bowl days of the 1930s, capping off the hottest June through August period in the state since 1936. More than two thirds of the reporting stations in Iowa reached 100 F at least once during the month, and many areas especially in southern Iowa registered triple digits on multiple days. The hottest readings came on the 16th when Des Moines reached 108 F, the highest temperature at that location since July of 1936. Other reported high temperatures that afternoon included 106 F at Ankeny, Centerville, and Winterset, 105 F at Indianola, Lamoni, and Logan, and 104 F at Fairfield, Onawa, and Oskaloosa. At Des Moines this remains the hottest August on record with the temperature reaching or exceeding 100 F on eight days during the month, six of which were during the State Fair. This marks the only occasion on which the temperature has ever reached triple digits at Des Moines during the Fair, and made it easily the warmest State Fair on record with an average temperature of 84.4 F over the course of the Fair. Remarkably, just the following month a series of very early freezes would affect Iowa on September 21-23.
1898: Extremely heavy rain fell over a small area in northern Des Moines County beginning at around 10 pm on the 15th and ending at about 5 am on the 16th. There were no rain gauges in the affected area but a field survey conducted in the following days yielded incredible estimates of as much at 16 inches of rain, with the bulk of this falling in less than three hours early on the morning of the 16th. Localized but devastating flash flooding occurred, with remarkable accounts of large debris being carried over long distances and new drainage canals being cut through the earth by the tremendous volume of water. The field survey conductor noted that “Flint River, which formerly entered into O’Connell slough after paralleling its course for half a mile, cut a new channel directly through cornfields to the slough, tearing out many acres of soil with crops and timber.” Fortunately, despite the fact that the flooding occurred in the pre-dawn hours there were no human casualties although much livestock was lost.
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This post was written by Schnack on August 16, 2012