It was a snowy, wet, hot, humid 12 months in Columbia

Saturday, December 31, 2011 | 3:11 p.m. CST; updated 7:10 p.m. CST, Wednesday, January 4, 2012

COLUMBIA — From a near blizzard in February to violent spring storms and a humid summer filled with cicadas, 2011 was a year for extreme weather in Columbia. 


On Feb. 1, blizzard conditions shut down most of Columbia and mid-Missouri for most of a week. Over the winter, Columbia received a total 53.4 inches of snow — the second most snowfall on record, almost topping the 1977-78 season, which had 54.8 inches of snow. 

As a result of the conditions, MU canceled classes for three consecutive days, while Columbia Public Schools closed for the remainder of the week after the storm. The campus had only closed four times since 1839 because of weather.

Gov. Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency in Missouri and activated the Missouri National Guard. The city canceled transit service and trash collection.

Portions of Interstate 70 from Kansas City to St. Louis were shut down for the first time in history because of the amount of accumulated snowfall. 

The cost of public snow removal in Columbia was an estimated $1.7 million last winter. 

Private contractors were also swamped.

“We did a lot more work, and it took a lot longer to clean up,” said Joshua Korte, owner of Korte Tree Care whose employees plowed many residents out of their driveways.

Flooding in the Missouri River Basin

Spring also brought some of the wettest and stormiest months on record. Heavy snowmelt from the northern part of the county combined with record spring storms caused the mid-Missouri basin to flood, resulting in damage throughout the region. 

Jud Kneuvean, emergency management chief for the Corps of Engineers, Kansas City district, identified 53 repair projects along the Missouri River, mostly levees. The corps estimated it would cost $460 million to repair damage along the river. 

The corps estimated in September that 37.5 million acre feet of water flowed down the river from May to August, significantly more than normal runoff of 24.8 million acre- feet. 

The flooding affected Cooper’s Landing by closing the access roads for a period of time.

“The flooding didn’t directly affect the business too much,” said Mike Cooper, owner of Cooper’s Landing, an entertainment venue.

“It closed down the roads for three weeks,” which caused a slowdown in visitors even after the flooding subsided, he said.

Tornadoes ravage Missouri 

Tornado activity missed Columbia, but other cities in Missouri were not so fortunate.

On April 22, an EF4 tornado struck the St. Louis metropolitan area with winds exceeding 165 mph, the strongest to hit the city since 1967.

As a result, the tornado left thousands without power and shut down the Lambert-St. Louis International Airport for nearly 24 hours. There were no deaths, and injuries were minimal.

The EF5 tornado that struck Joplin on May 22 was the nation’s deadliest tornado, killing 161 and injuring thousands.

The city continues to rebuild with federal and other assistance. A segment of "Extreme Home Makeover" airs Jan. 13 on ABC with the story of seven homes built in seven days for residents who lost theirs.

Summer drought and cicadas 

This summer Columbia was visited once again by cicadas. The noisy bugs that crawl out of the ground every 13  years arrived in May and hung around for nearly two months.

Known as Brood 19, the nymphs shed their skins, searched for a mate, then died.

Sparky's Homemade Ice Cream debuted a cicada-flavored ice cream in June, selling out of the bug-flavored treat in an hour.

The ice cream gained national attention.

"We always try to push the limit," Sparky's manager Ashley Nagel said in a previous Missourian article.

Columbia also had had one of the hottest summers on record, according to Missouri State Climatologist Pat Guinan. Parts of Missouri fell into drought conditions that damaged crops throughout the state. 

"After the flooding receded, the drought came in, and it also kept people from coming back in," Cooper said. "It was really hot."

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