Similarities to Spring of '89

Town and Country

Spring of 1989 also brought rains after a severe drought year.

Published on: May 17, 2013

After the recent spike in late overnight freeze events we have been experiencing in the Midwest, I hope I don't eat my words in saying it seems that the warm weather is finally here to stay. Kansas City saw 90-degree temperatures on Tuesday and Wednesday. I am a little biased, but I have to admit May is my favorite time of year.

As many know, this is a busy month, and it can be hard to balance time for graduation parties, weddings – not to mention planting, especially this year with delayed planting thanks to a cold, wet spring. Traveling back to Iowa for a wedding last weekend, I noticed several farmers in the field planting, and even more throughout the week. Like the cycle of the seasons, another cycle came full circle this year and brought a wet spring. About 24 years ago, the spring of 1989 brought rains after a drought year in 1988.

The drought of the late 1980s is considered one of the worst in U.S. history, and many have compared it to the recent drought. Along with the damage to U.S. agriculture, the drought of the 1980s also brought deaths due to heat waves – thousands by some estimates, compared to hundreds in the recent drought. According to the National Climatic Data Center, the drought of the 1980s was the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history, bringing wildfires in the west and slowing barge traffic on the Mississippi.

However, it does go to show drought years tend to follow a cyclic pattern. The 1930s and 1980s droughts brought wet springs in 1935 and 1989, at least for some parts of the Midwest. Where I'm from in southwest Iowa actually saw a downpour the day I was born in May of 1989. Although a pattern is apparent, what's unfortunately not apparent is when one will begin or end.