Minnesota is getting wetter, mega-rain events increasing

We've had 11 mega-rain events since 1973, eight of them since 2000.
Publish date:

Extreme rainfall events have caused major flooding issues in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa this year, and it's part of a growing trend in the Upper Midwest. 

According to FiveThirtyEight, heavy rain events have been increasing over the last 100 years in Minnesota, including the number of "mega-rain" events, which are defined as storms that produce six inches of rain over at least 1,000 square miles – and at least eight inches of rain are recorded in the center of coverage area.

According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Minnesota has documented 11 mega-rain events since 1973. It notes: 

"Of these 11 events, two were in the 1970s, one was in the 1980s, none were in the 1990s, but four occurred in both the 2000s, and the 2010s (still underway). Thus, the 18 years from 2000-2017 have seen nearly three times as many mega-rains as the 27 years spanning 1973-99."

Ironically, FiveThirtyEight's story was published on May 17, about a month before northeast Minnesota and northwest Wisconsin were hammered with 5-15 inches of rain that caused extreme flash flooding in area rivers, creeks and streams. 

The non-stop rain over the weekend of June 16-17 caused the Nemadji River south of Superior to rise 25 feet in just two days. Countless roads in the area were closed due to water covering roadways or completely washing sections of roads away. 

MPR meteorologist Paul Huttner said that the 15 inches of rain that fell in Drummond, Wisconsin were about two inches more than needed to qualify as a 1 in 1,000-year rain event

Related Stories

Video, pictures show astonishing river surges in Minnesota and Wisconsin

Watch how extreme rainfall turned an Iowa football field into jello

Then, this past weekend, extreme rainfall plagued northern Iowa, with a football field in Forest City showing the power of heavy rain when it started to bubble up, taking on a jello-like composition after eight inches of rain fell in about an hour. 

Not only are prolific rains becoming more common, they're changing the way engineers are planning for the future. Read the full FiveThirtyEight article for more on that. 

The DNR notes that climatologists believe the increase in mega-rain events is due to global warming, which provides storms with more moisture to work with. 

Next Up


St. Cloud State blanked by UMass in national championship game

Minnesota had three teams in the Frozen Four but didn't claim the national title.

BLM mural in West St. Paul.

Minnesotan's fight to save his BLM mural gets international coverage

West St. Paul told Ryan Weyandt the art violates city code.

Alex Rodriguez

Reports: Alex Rodriguez part of group finalizing deal to buy Wolves, Lynx

The former MLB will become part-owner of the Wolves and Lynx.

snow, slush (submitted photo, ok to use)

Accumulating snow expected in parts of Minnesota on Monday

Far northwestern Minnesota stands the best chance for higher snow totals.

Screen Shot 2021-04-10 at 1.53.51 PM

Police looking for 'person of interest' in connection to woman's killing

The public is advised to avoid approaching him and to call 911.

covid, vaccine

Here is Minnesota's COVID-19 update for Saturday, April 10

Cases and hospitalizations have been on the rise in Minnesota.

Gabe Kalscheur

Gabe Kalscheur announces he's transferring to Iowa State

The former Gopher guard entered the transfer portal last month.


Asked about restrictions, Walz says Minnesota is in a 'hold pattern'

Meanwhile, the governor of Michigan is urging people to stay home to slow the spread.

walz and zapko

Watch: Beloved MN sign language interpreter profiled on Today Show

Nic Zapka's work made her an internet celebrity last year.

White Bear Lake Area High School

White Bear Lake students hold walkout over racist social media comments

School officials are investigating the anonymous Instagram account.


Flooding rains possible in Twin Cities, southern Minnesota

Up to six inches of rain could fall in some areas.

Up to 4 inches of rain per hour in heaviest storms Saturday

Carver County has already been hammered and more rain is coming.

flash flooding

Ahead of Hurricane Laura, 'Predecessor Rain Event' could impact MN, WI

Known as a "PRE," these events happen ahead of a tropical cyclone's track.

Sartell flooding road

Heavy rain, flooding, severe storms all possible through Thursday

Folks in southern Minnesota could pick up ridiculous rain totals.

Large hail possible with Friday storms, soaking rains to follow

Storms are expected to fire up during the afternoon on Friday.

Heavy rain, tornadoes possible in southern Minnesota Saturday

Up to two inches of rain in an hour is possible, the NWS says.