Bloomington climate trends could mean wetter summers, higher lake levels

Three decades from now, Indiana is forecast to see between 6 and 8 percent more rainfall than it averaged in the past, depending on the amount of greenhouse gas emissions during the lead-up to mid-century.

That’s according to a 2018 report from the Purdue Climate Change Research Center.

According to the report, in southern Indiana, the increased precipitation is predicted to come more in the winter and spring months.

But based on records of precipitation and the water levels at Lake Monroe in the past two and a half decades, southern Indiana looks like it could be seeing more rain in the first half of summer.

Earlier this week, the Indianapolis office of the National Weather Service tweeted out a link to a report on the anomaly of this summer’s first half: It has been way wetter than normal.

The abnormal amount of region-wide rainfall has caused high water on Lake Monroe. Last week Indiana’s Department of Natural Resources closed the swim beaches at the lake’s Fairfax SRA and Paynetown SRA and they’ve stayed closed.

Rainfall and lake levels are related, of course. And over the last quarter century, both seem to be showing an upward trend for this time of year. Continue reading “Bloomington climate trends could mean wetter summers, higher lake levels”

Photos: Kirkwood Flood of 2021

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Around 3 inches of rain fell on the Bloomington area starting around 10:45 through half past midnight on June 19.

The thunderstorm knocked out power for around 6,000 Duke Energy customers, including a swatch of 1,500 customers east of the downtown square. The initial estimated time for restoration of power indicated on Duke’s outage map was 5 a.m.

The heavy rains that came with the wind and lightning caused street flooding in several areas, including East Kirkwood from Dunn to Grant. A car could be seen stuck on Grant Street in the block south of Kirkwood, swamped by the water flowing south.

The water was thigh deep in some places.

In the photos that accompany this story, yellow bollards are visible blocking off Kirkwood to vehicle traffic. [Monroe County floodplains from FEMA data] Continue reading “Photos: Kirkwood Flood of 2021”

No burn ban yet for Monroe County, but EM director says: “Make good decisions when you’re burning things.”

At Wednesday’s meeting of Monroe County commissioners, county director of emergency management Allison Moore told them no outdoor burn ban was yet recommended for the county, despite persistent dry conditions.

She still asked the public to exercise caution: “We do challenge you to make good decisions when you’re burning things.” Making good decisions includes making sure you have a good preparedness plan in place, she added.

Moore said that she had been busy with other officials contemplating the same kind of burn ban that 14 other counties across south central Indiana had implemented over the last few weeks.

In this latest dry phase, the first county to declare a burn ban was Martin County, southwest of Monroe County, on Sept. 10.

Owen County, northwest of Monroe County, had earlier declared a ban, but lifted it on Oct. 1.

The quarter inch (0.24) of rain recorded at the weather station on the Indiana University campus in Bloomington during the month of September made it the third-driest September for the period of record dating back to 1895.

The driest September on record was last year, and that dry spell also prompted some surrounding counties to implement burn bans. Continue reading “No burn ban yet for Monroe County, but EM director says: “Make good decisions when you’re burning things.””

Free parking in downtown Bloomington … for voters

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Election Central at 7th and Madison streets on Oct. 25, 2019. (Dave Askins/Beacon)

The parking lot at Election Central in downtown Bloomington, at the corner of 7th and Madison streets, is now reserved for voters to park. Banners on both sides of the entrance say, “Voter Parking Only.” Continue reading “Free parking in downtown Bloomington … for voters”

At record high for this time of year, Lake Monroe starting to level off

Wednesday morning, a pontoon pilot approached the Lake Monroe causeway—it’s where SR 446 crosses the reservoir, leaving a gap at the south end for boaters to navigate under the road.

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View looking northwest under the SR 446 causeway across Lake Monroe on June 26, 2019 (Dave Askins/Beacon)

But the captain reversed his engine, brought his craft about, then idled, floating maybe 30 yards west of the underpass. He and his crewmate made quick work of the task that allowed them to navigate through the opening: They unclipped the guy wires and lowered the frame that held the canopy aloft.

They might have had enough clearance to scrape under the bridge, without lowering the sun shade. But the record-high levels of the lake—for this time of year—meant that it would have been close.

The normal level of the lake is 538 feet above sea level. But through Wednesday, Lake Monroe registered about 552.6 feet on the USGS gauge. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), which manages the lake, typically reports water levels using the number of feet above the normal pool. That’s currently 14.6 feet. Continue reading “At record high for this time of year, Lake Monroe starting to level off”

Opinion: Bloomington should consider a different approach to stormwater revenue

At its regular meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 20, the Bloomington City Council will consider “adjusting stormwater fees.” It’s the second reading of a change to the city’s ordinance on the “stormwater utility.”

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The manhole cover near Indiana Avenue and 6th Street on Feb. 7, 2019.

Of course, a “fee adjustment” generally means an increase of the fee.

And Bloomington’s proposed adjustment is a more than doubling of the monthly fee paid by single-family residential (SFR) customers—implemented in two phases over six months. The first bump, to $4.32 per month, would go into effect about four months from now, on July 1, 2019. Six months after that, on Jan. 1, 2020, the rate would go up to $5.95 per month.

More than a decade and a half has gone by since the rate was increased. (It was Ordinance 03-24, enacted in 2003, that put the current rate into effect, according to the city’s online municipal code.)

Even as a recent arrival in Bloomington, I recognize that the city’s stormwater infrastructure needs some improvement. On Feb. 7, when around 3 inches of rain fell, I walked from 6th Street near the courthouse square to the Indiana University Credit Union near the IU football stadium. Continue reading “Opinion: Bloomington should consider a different approach to stormwater revenue”

2016 national database: Dillman Road bridge south of Bloomington proposed to be replaced

Social media was deluged with dramatic images of Bloomington area flooding last week, following heavy rain over a three-day period. They included a photo of water overtopping Dillman Road bridge at Clear Creek, posted on Facebook by Gregory Reed Travis, and a YouTube video of the same location shot by Cody Fleener. Geoff McKim added an aerial shot of the bridge after the waters had somewhat receded.

The Dillman Road bridge is one of 224 Monroe County bridges included in the National Bridge Inventory, a database maintained by the Federal Highway Administration.

Based on the latest records available in the NBI, after a March 2016 inspection, the Dillman Road bridge had a “Sufficiency Rating” of 44.9 out of 100. Records in the database show that replacement of the bridge is proposed.

The bridge is on an every-two-year inspection schedule, according to the database. The FHA has not yet posted 2018 NBI numbers online. Continue reading “2016 national database: Dillman Road bridge south of Bloomington proposed to be replaced”

Bloomington three-day rain total: 5.26 inches (17th rainiest three-day span on record)

The heavy rain that fell on Bloomington and the surrounding area on Thursday, Feb. 7 totaled 3.3 inches, based on data reported by the National Weather Service station on Indiana University’s campus.

That one-day total made yesterday the 28th rainiest day in Bloomington, since Nov. 16, 1895, when the station started keeping records. Yesterday’s 3.3 inches was only about half as much as the 6.56 inches that fell on Oct. 6, 1910, which remains the rainiest Bloomington day on record. Continue reading “Bloomington three-day rain total: 5.26 inches (17th rainiest three-day span on record)”

Late January cold sets record for Bloomington

Two records for cold temperature were set on the last day of January this year in Bloomington, Indiana: a coldest low of -10 F; and a coldest high of 2 F.

The day isn’t over yet, but the IU weather station—a National Weather Service Cooperative Observer Program site—has a 24-hourly observation time of 7 a.m., according to the NWS.  So the daily temps for Jan. 31 from the IU station already appear in the NOAA Regional Climate Center database. Continue reading “Late January cold sets record for Bloomington”

Wednesday: Possible record low for the daily high temperature in Bloomington

The forecast subzero temperatures for Tuesday and Wednesday in Bloomington, Indiana, have been revised by the National Weather Service since last week to go even lower that earlier predicted—on Tuesday -5 F and on Wednesday as low as  -7 F. Continue reading “Wednesday: Possible record low for the daily high temperature in Bloomington”