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Weather History: August 17: Record temps, tropics, storms, wind & flooding

Meteorological events that happened on August 17th:


Amos, CA hit 130°, a U.S. record for August.


The “San Cirriaoe” hurricane struck the North Carolina coast. 50 people were killed and 13 vessels were either beached or lost on or near the coast.


After the Hurricane of 1900, the city of Galveston, TX built a seawall 17 feet above sea level and 5 miles long. The next hurricane to hit Galveston occurred on this date with winds gusting to 120 mph. The storm surge reached 12 feet. 275 fatalities resulted, in stark contrast to the 6,000 deaths in the 1900 storm. Only 10% of the 250 homes remaining outside the seawall survived.


This was the last day with a high temperature at Death Valley, CA reaching or exceeding 120°.


Lower temperatures, higher humidities and a misting rain gave firefighters a temporary break in the series of forest fires known as the Tillamook Burn in northwestern Oregon. But the relief was temporary and the fires would rage out of control again the next day, becoming a fire storm that would burn 550 square miles of some of the world's best timber.


The "Sundance Fire" in northern Idaho was started by lightning. Winds of 50 mph carried firebrands as much as 10 miles in advance to ignite new fires, and as a result, the forest fire spread 20 miles across the Selkirk Mountains in just 12 hours, burning 56,000 acres. The heat of the fire produced whirlwinds of flame with winds up to 300 mph which flung giant trees about like matchsticks.


Camille, the second worst hurricane in U.S. history, smashed into the Mississippi coast, making landfall at Pass Christian, MS with sustained winds of 190 mph and gusts well over 200 mph. Winds gusted to 172 mph at Main Pass Block, LA, and to 190 mph near Bay Saint Louis, MS. Several ocean going ships were carried over seven miles inland by the hurricane. The hurricane produced a storm surge of 24.6 feet. Complete destruction occurred in some coastal areas near the eye of the hurricane. At Pensacola, FL, tides ran as high as 6.3 feet above normal. Crop damage was estimated near a half million dollars. As a result, 143 people perished along the coast with 27 others missing. The noise level in the storm was measured at 120 decibels, the equivalent of a rocket engine. Camille's legacy of damage did not end there. Another 113 people would die in flash floods and landslides caused by rainfall from the dying cyclone over the Appalachian Mountains. A total of 5,571 people would be injured. Damage exceeded $1.3 billion dollars.


Record cold occurred from the Deep South to New England. Frost was observed in the mountains of West Virginia. Albany, NY: 40°, Concord, NH: 40°-Tied, Elkins, WV: 41°, Burlington, VT: 42°-Tied, Avoca, PA: 43°, Sterling (Dulles Airport), VA: 44°, Syracuse, NY: 44°, Williamsport, PA: 45°, Hartford, CT: 45°, Atlantic City, NJ: 46°, Allentown, PA: 46°, Rochester, NY: 46°, Roanoke, VA: 48°, Charleston, WV: 48°, Harrisburg, VA: 48°, Bristol, TN: 49°, Wilmington, DE: 49°, Huntington, WV: 50°, Cincinnati, OH: 50°, Greensboro, NC: 50°, Philadelphia, PA: 50°, Oak Ridge, TN: 51°, Lexington, KY: 52°, Evansville, IN: 52°, Raleigh, NC: 52°, Lynchburg, VA: 52°, Nashville, TN: 53°, Baltimore, MD: 53°, Greenville-Spartanburg, SC: 54°, Charlotte, NC: 55°, Newark, NJ: 55°, Bridgeport, CT: 55°, Paducah, KY: 56°, Richmond, VA: 56°, NYC (Central Park), NY: 56°, NYC (Kennedy Airport), NY: 56°, Tupelo, MS: 57°, Wallops Island, VA: 57°, NYC (LaGuardia Airport), NY: 58°, Chattanooga, TN: 59°, Wilmington, NC: 59° and Charleston, SC: 62°.

5 to 7 inches of rain fell across the North Concho River north of San Angelo, TX causing the River to rise 15 feet. Rising waters nearly swept away several campers.


6.89 inches of rain fell at Caribou, Maine for its greatest 24 hour rainfall on record.


A total of 3.05 inches of rain fell in Bullhead City, NV which was the greatest one day total on record.


Evening thunderstorms produced severe weather in the northern and central Plains. One thunderstorm spawned a tornado near Fairbury, NE, along with baseball size hail and wind gusts to 100 mph, causing severe crop damage west of town.

Several cities across the eastern U.S. reported record high temperatures for the date; including Syracuse, NY with 97°, their hottest in 22 years.


Many cities, from the Mid-Mississippi Valley to the Mid-Atlantic Coast Region, reported record high temperatures for the date as the incredible summer heat continued. Beckley, WV reported an all-time record high of 96°, and Baltimore, MD hit 104°, marking their 13th day of the year with 100 degree heat. Chicago, IL equaled a record with 46 days of 90 degree heat for the year.

The following locations recorded their hottest August temperature: Charles City, IA: 104°, New Hampton, IA: 104°, Platteville, WI: 103°, also hottest day on record, Oelwein, IA: 103°, also tied with 7/31/1988 for hottest day on record, Hillsboro, WI: 101°, also hottest day on record, and Lynxville, WI: 101°, also tied for hottest day with 7/7/1980.

Champaign, IL high of 102° was the warmest August temperature on record.

Grand Rapids, MI set a record high with 98° along with Lansing, MI with 95° and Muskegon, MI with 93°.

Thunderstorms produced severe weather from Wisconsin to New Jersey. Thunderstorms in New Jersey produced wind gusts to 92 mph at Wrightstown, and blew down a circus tent at Lavallette injuring 14 people. An F2 tornado hit Ewing Township, from near Mercer Co airport to Trenton, damaging homes and vehicles, and an F2 touched down in Salem Co, New Jersey. An F0 tornado touched down in Lakewood, NJ, uprooting trees, with 14 people receiving injuries.


Morning thunderstorms produced 3 to 6 inch rains in Oklahoma, and the Ark-La-Tex area of Arkansas, Texas and Louisiana. Tom, OK reported 5.98 inches of rain, and Foreman AR received 5.55 inches.

Evening thunderstorms produced high winds in the Wasatch Front of northern Utah. Thunderstorm winds gusted to 66 mph at Salt Lake City, UT and flash flooding caused up to $2 million dollars damage to a marina on Lake Powell.


After nearly dissipating, Andrew became a tropical storm on this date.

Tropical air brought high temperatures and heat to the Los Angeles Basin, in California, for a week. On this date in Los Angeles, the temperature hit 99° with a heat index of 110°.


One of the most memorable severe thunderstorms in recent history struck north-central and central Oklahoma. The communities of Lahoma and Drummond suffered the most damage from an unusually intense supercell storm that moved south into Oklahoma near Manchester, and continued across Goltry, Lahoma, Drummond, Kingfisher, and Okarche. Widespread severe damage occurred to between 500 and 800 permanent homes and businesses, and between 80 and 120 mobile homes, all the result of very large hail driven by hurricane-force winds. Peak wind gusts in Lahoma were measured at 113 mph, before the wind equipment gave out. Wind gusts to 113 mph were recorded at Meno, OK, 104 mph at Mangum, OK and 97 mph at Hobart, OK. 30 mobile homes were destroyed by hail and wind at Okarche, OK. Hailstones measured 4.5 inches in diameter. Hail reached golf ball to baseball size along the entire storm track. One hailstone that fell between Kingfisher and Okarche was said to look like a football. Several people were treated for hypothermia in the Lahoma area as a result of the large volume of hail, as air temperatures fell from near 100°, down into the lower 50s.

Boise, ID recorded their 41st day in a row with maximum temperatures of 90 degrees or higher to set a new all-time record for the city.

Grand Junction, CO hit 100° for its latest 100 degree temperature on record.


Hurricane Felix stalled off the Mid-Atlantic Coast after upper atmosphere winds that had been steering it faded away. An area of high pressure to the west blocked movement farther inland. Another area of high pressure to the east blocked movement back over the Atlantic. Both areas of high pressure were weak and didn't generate strong steering currents. The west-to-east winds that could push Felix away from the U.S. were far to the north. As a result, Felix milled around in the same general area on the 17th and 18th before it began drifting slowly eastward, away from the U.S. on the 19th.


A tornado brushes Domain, Manitoba damaging rooftops and knocking down trees. The same storm system drops hail the size of quarters on Winnipeg and 2 inch hail on Sanford and Starbuck.


Record coldest August temperature at Sheridan, WY fell to 32°; not only recording their coldest August low temperature but also the earliest freeze on record.

A morning to early afternoon rainfall dumped 1.4 inches of rain in just 6 hours at Alexandroupolis, Greece. The average August rainfall is 0.7 inches.

Between the 14th and 17th East London on the southeastern coast of South Africa was very wet; during a 72 hour period 12.88 inches of rain fell, 11.50 inches of it in a 42 hour period; of which an incredible 8.27 inches of rain fell in just 3 hours during the evening on the 15th. The average August rainfall here is 1.69 inches. East London wasn't the only place hit by severe weather during this period; Port Alfred recorded 2.99 inches, Patensie 2.35 inches, Port Elizabeth 2.70 inches and Uitenhage 3.18 inches.


Chadron, ME recorded the last of 26 consecutive days with a high temperature of at least 90 degrees, their longest such streak on record.


Check out my colleague Weather Examiners:

Baltimore, MD area weather with Tony Pann at

Orlando, FL area weather with Dr. Steve Oliver at

Houston, TX area weather & the weekly Weather America Newsletter with Larry Cosgrove at

NOAA Headlines Examiner with Dr. Steve Oliver and IPR at

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