May 2002, One of the Wettest, Coldest Mays since 1895!, Illinois State Water Survey

Press Release

For Immediate Release May 31, 2002
May 2002, One of the Wettest, Coldest Mays since 1895!

Jim Angel - (217) 333-0729, Fax: (217) 244-0220,
Eva Kingston - (217) 244-7270, Fax: (217) 333-6540,
"With statewide average rainfall of 7.52 inches (3.26 inches and 77 percent above average) and temperature of 58°F (4.6°F below average), May 2002 is the eighth wettest, coldest May on record in Illinois since 1895," says State Climatologist Jim Angel of the Illinois State Water Survey (, a division of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
Figure 1.  May 2002 Precipitation (inches).  This graphic shows that precipitation varied from less than 2 inches to more than 10 in Illinois during May.
Figure 1. May 2002 Precipitation (inches).
(Click to Enlarge Image)

"The heaviest precipitation in May fell in an area roughly bounded by Interstates 72 and 70 (see figure). This is the fourth wettest April-May period in Illinois since 1895 with 12.72 inches of rainfall (4.65 inches and 58 percent of average). With year-to-date precipitation of 20.51 inches (5.02 inches and 33 percent above average) statewide, it's also the ninth wettest January-May period since 1895," states Angel.

While the widespread flooding experienced in Illinois may lead to comparisons with 1993, the timing was different. The April-May rainfall for 1993 was 8.48 inches, 0.55 inches above average, but much less than this year. The flooding in 1993 was more of a summer event with the July-August rainfall of that year at 18.34 inches (6.80 inches and 59 percent above average), the wettest on record since 1895.

Several locations received more than a foot of rain in May. Beecher City reported 12.82 inches, Lovington reported 12.48 inches, Hardin reported 12.47 inches, and Medora reported 12.21 inches. Beecher City also reported the most precipitation for the April-May period, 19.69 inches, almost half the average annual precipitation in Effingham County.

All this cool, wet weather in April and May led to flooding and planting delays throughout the state. Even corn planted before the wet weather has progressed slowly. Ironically, delays in planting and crop development meant that little damage was reported when record low temperatures occurred in northern Illinois on May 21: 31°F in Chicago, 29°F in Rockford, 30°F in Freeport, and 25°F in Streamwood).

In addition to heavy rainfall, May also had its share of severe weather. A tornado in Centralia resulted in two deaths and 15 serious injuries on May 8. There were numerous reports of hail and wind damage across southern Illinois on May 1, 6, 8, 11, and 12.

Based on historical data back to 1895, wet summers do not necessarily follow wet springs. In fact, there is little correlation between wet springs and summer rainfall. However, warmer-than-average summers are less likely to occur following wet springs.

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