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Iowa Weather Trends

From a recent DesMoines Register article.

So far this year the National Weather Service has issued 39 wind advisories in Iowa — 39 notices of sustained winds of 31 to 39 mph expected to last at least an hour and/or when wind gusts are expected to reach 46 to 57 mph. That’s tied with 2012 for the second-most wind advisories through April 24 since the weather service started tracking them in 2006, trailing only 2014’s 41.

14 Replies

smeastim, May 3, 2022 at 10:53 am

What has been the wildest weather experienced during RAGBRAI? How cold/hot? Any tornados in the area? This is going to be my first and while I anticipate it to be rather hot in July, I was wondering about the variations experienced in past years.


Joseph Schlau, May 3, 2022 at 12:04 pm

If you go back in the forum about 3 1/2 months, there was a topic called Rain Gear. There were a number of posts related to past years (rainy) weather days and the differing opinions on adequate prep and gear.

Many riders just look at weather averages during July and incorrectly assume that is what they will encounter. Several of the posts illustrate some of the days where things weren’t average.

As for me, the most dangerous weather was a late night storm with high winds, rain, lightning. The winds were so strong I needed to kneel in the tent supporting the A-frame poles to keep the tent from blowing down. This was in Sheldon in 2005? One camper at a private house was DOA after a tree limb came down on his tent. After the pounding at night, daytime brought overcast, windy, scattered rain. So if you were wet and cold from the night, the daytime brought little relief.


HelenP, May 3, 2022 at 1:02 pm

Some days last year, temperatures were up in the 90s F. Other riders speak of years with days of bone chilling rain pushing people towards hypothermia. Temperatures may drop overnight, so a light blanket might be needed, but heat was much more the issue last year.

Use a dry sack, waterproof duffle bag, zip-close plastic bags, etc., for your clothes & gear — the overnight dew was often like a gentle, but soaking rain. Don’t forget your tent should have good water ratings, too.

Some riders bring large trashbags to tie around them, as lightweight rain gear. Consider snug-fitting rain covers for your helmet, shoes or toes, and maybe leggings, too. Water PROOF is better than water RESISTANT (which is designed only for brief, light rain). Keep an eye on the weight, though — some noncycling rain gear can be quite heavy.

In 2009, at least one tent was pulled up and tossed high in the air by a small whirlwind (Google search “RAGBRAI flying tent” for the amusing video) — so always stake your tent, even if the weather seems nice at the time! Headwinds while cycling might slow us down.

Large hail, strong winds, dangerous tornadoes and, of course, thunderstorms could cause us to abandon biking or camping for the nearest solid shelter. We lucked out last year, skipping those.

Also, be sure to pack plenty of sunburn lotion, some bug spray, and maybe some anti-itch medicine like Benadryl spray. There are mosquitoes at night in some camps. You should be able to find small lotion tubes and pump spray bottles for those, just a few ounces each, to take riding. Refills can stay with your camping gear. Some riders like “Da Brim” to add a broad brim around a bike helmet. Sun Arms and Sun Legs are a good way to prevent sunburn, and they stay cool — watch out for fakes that will just make you hot. A thin biking cap or inexpensive baseball cap or bandanna under your helmet could help with sun, too.

So, last year we sometimes faced high heat, burning sun, and heavy dew, but who knows what else may turn up this year? Here’s hoping it’s mainly nice weather, like last year!

This reply was modified 7 months, 1 week ago by HelenP.


cannontandem, June 4, 2022 at 5:48 pm

The temps have ranged from upper 40’s to 100+ many times. The winds seem to be more in the 7 to 15 mph range in more recent times but can be quite strong at times. There have been several tornado warnings and severe thunder storm warnings over the years but few problems that I am aware of other then in Sheldon in 2005 where the person was killed and a lot of tents had rips and broken poles.
The worst day for cold was in 1981 and called Soggy Monday. The temp started at about 57 early and kept dropping and a head wind did NOT help. Then the rain started to add to the fun. My friend and I were lucky to find a vender that sold us 2 tall kitchen garbage bags shortly after the rain started. We were the first to finish but the temp was in the 40’s by then. There were a lot of people that didn’t finish the day and a lot less people in camp from then on. They missed a great day the next day.
The hottest weeks were in 1999 and 2012.
1999 started fairly nice but got more brutal each day with the asphalt sticking to tires by Friday. The heat broke a bit for the last day.
2012 was hot for the last month before the ride and continued with highs close to 100 for the first 4 days. The last 3 days got better but the early days had drained all your energy.


Joseph Schlau, June 5, 2022 at 4:20 am

In a June 1st article in the DesMoines Register the headline Iowans warned they may see rolling blackouts this summer as NOAA predicts above-average temperatures caught my attention. The article mainly addresses the status of the midwestern states power grid and the possibility of rolling blackouts of 1 hour duration if, with emphasis on if, temperatures forecast by NOAA trend above average. It warned that Iowa’s largest utilities, as well as dozens of municipal and rural electric cooperatives, may be asked to cut power to customers if demand appears on track to exceed available electricity.

The article links to the NOAA site with a highly technical explanation of the predictive model. The simpler explanation is in the June-August maps issued on May 19th.

It shows temperatures leaning toward above normal and precipitation leaning toward below normal. Of course I wouldn’t be finalizing my equipment list based on a forecast that was issued 2 months out, but I will periodically check the site again as we get closer to mid July to see where the weather is trending.


LawnchairMan, June 5, 2022 at 11:18 am

My first reaction to the forecast of possible rolling blackouts was so what? We are cycling and camping . . . we don’t need power. Then I started thinking about cold drinks or hot food. What if we can’t get ice? Would we have spaghetti dinners? Would solar or gas generators be enough for lights, phones and food? We might not be able to cool off at the library as in past years. Swimming pools would be popular. Would electric bikes find places to charge? Would medicines stay cool?
What would Ragbrai be like without power? I think I have just scratched the surface. What would you miss most?


Jimbodog, June 6, 2022 at 6:03 am

What if I get a flat tire? What if my cleat breaks? What if there is an emergency at home? What if the Ragbrai officials have a backup plan including many available large generators that are on large trailers? Have your back up plan, that includes clothing related to any kind of weather for sure. As far as break downs, have the basics even if you can’t do the repair or replacement, there will be riders stumbling over each other to help. There are very good tips posted above. I am not NOAA or The National Weather Service, but I am predicting a very good Ragbrai. Don’t let yourself get in the way!


Rob Fuller, June 6, 2022 at 7:59 am

Wind? What direction? Delightful tailwind or relentless headwind?


Joseph Schlau, June 6, 2022 at 9:31 am

In any case, we will have a lot of company out there.

While registration for the 2021 ride was down about 5%, Phippen said he’s ready for a return to pre-pandemic levels of participation — or beyond. More than 17,000 weekly and day-long riders already are registered for the nation’s largest annual cycling tour.

“It’s record up right now,” Phippen said.

Non-registered riders inevitably join the ride, as well, Phippen said. In 2013, they swelled the ranks of cyclists to a possible one-day record 36,000 on the way from Perry to Des Moines.

From today’s DMR


smeastim, June 6, 2022 at 10:25 am

Let me hoist the mainsail and jib and fly across Iowa! I would hate to have a repeat of 1981.


Ifflandm, June 17, 2022 at 7:20 pm

I am trying to get a feeling for a summer sleep bag/quilt/bag liner to use. Any suggestions?


HelenP, June 17, 2022 at 8:46 pm

Microfleece is comfortable, lightweight, and quick to dry. Search for:

Fleece Sleeping Bag Liner


Ifflandm, June 18, 2022 at 9:31 am

Thanks for the reply. I am looking for something like this but much lighter and less bulking. I do have a liner that might work. I just need to find it.


Joseph Schlau, June 21, 2022 at 5:21 am

I am trying to get a feeling for a summer sleep bag/quilt/bag liner to use. Any suggestions?

I returned from a weekend “shakedown” trip testing the bike and camping equipment prior to the self support ride to RAGBRAI.

I am using a rectangular synthetic sleeping bag and a thermarest lite air mattress. The bag has a very optimistic rating of 40 degrees.

First night, temp in the mid 50’s, breezy, no fly on the tent, was comfortable.

Second night the temp went down to 45 degrees, in Illinois. The forecast low was 55. This night I used the rain fly to cut the wind. That optimistic 40 degree rating did not hold true and I knew from experience the lowest rating was 55.

There are things you can do to compensate for an underperforming bag.

No sleep system is complete unless you have an air mattress or foam sleeping pad underneath the bag. Even the thickest bag is crushed flat on the bottom and transmits cold from the ground.

A significant amount of heat is lost from your head. I put on a hooded wind jacket covering the head and clean socks to keep the feet warm. I also had rain pants and jacket at the ready. The pants and jacket were used for awhile once I got up at dawn.

45 degrees is not typical for summer in Illinois. Past RAGBRAIs have also had atypically cold weather. That said, one cannot offer you advice on the perfect sleeper as everyone has different tolerance for the cold.

What I can say is whatever sleep system you choose, camp out a night or two in the backyard or local campground and see how it works for you. It is also easier to open up a bag and sleep on top of it if it is a warm night than it is trying to find a solution to being cold at 1:30 in the morning. Nothing ruins a day like being awake all night shivering in the cold.


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