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Weather History: July 4: Record temps, storms, tornadoes, snow, fire & floods

Meteorological events that happened on July 4th:


Thomas Jefferson paid for his first thermometer, and signed the Declaration of Independence. According to his weather memorandum book, at 2pm it was cloudy and 76° and 74° at 3pm under cloudy skies, a southwest wind and a pressure of 30.25 inHg.


Savannah, GA reported morning temperatures in the 40's.


Tornadoes hit the Baltimore, MD/Washington, D.C. area, causing minor damage, but a major tornado hit Lewistown, PA, killing eight people.


A heat wave brought temperatures in excess of 90° to the East on Centennial Day. Washington, DC soared to 96° New York City was 94° and Boston hit 92°.

Severe thunderstorms hit the Midwest and a dam failed at Rock Dale, IA. The flood destroyed a railroad bridge and swept through the town. 42 people were killed.


16 horses were killed by hail, and many more had to be put to death due to injuries from a hailstorm at Rapid City, SD.


Queensland in Australia recorded their coldest night on record when the low at Stanhope dropped to 12°.


An F1 tornado moved across Hampton Beach, NH, killing three people and injuring 120 others. No one at the beach, in the panic caused by the thunderstorm, noticed the funnel. However, from a distance, one observer saw the tornado and thought there was a fire at the beach.


The northeastern U.S. experienced sweltering 100 degree heat. The temperature soared to 105° at Vernon, VT and North Bridgton, ME, and 106° at Nashua, NH, to establish all-time records for those three states. Afternoon highs of 104° at Boston, MA, 104° at Albany, NY, and 103° at Portland, ME, were all-time records for those three cities.


Washington, KS was struck by a huge F4 tornado. 5 people were killed.


The maximum temperature reached 100° at Goose Bay, Labrador Canada.


A world record for the most rain in one minute was set at Unionville, MD with a downpour of 1.23 inches.


Canadian high pressure behind a strong cold front brought record chill to the northern Plains. Record lows for July included: Decorah, IA: 41°, Elkader, IA: 46°, and Genoa, WI: 46°. Other daily record lows included: Bismarck, ND: 36°, International Falls, MN: 36°, Fargo. ND: 37°, Waterloo, IA: 43°, Dubuque, IA: 45°, Sioux City, IA: 46°, Rockford, IL: 46°, Omaha, NE: 48°, Des Moines, IA: 48°, Springfield, IL: 49° and Concordia, KS: 50°.


Severe thunderstorms accompanied by wind gusts of 100 mph dumped heavy rains of 4 to 15 inches across parts of northern Ohio causing major flash flooding. 41 deaths, 359 injuries resulted and damage exceeded $66 million dollars.

In southwest Lower Michigan, More than 60 people were injured, most of them from a tornado that hit Flat Rock in southern Wayne County. The tornado destroyed a tile factory, carrying sheet metal over a mile. Another tornado injured 11 people about four miles east of Jackson as it damaged a dozen mobile homes.


Chilly Canadian high pressure brought record cold to parts of the northern Plains and Midwest. Jump River, WI dropped to 27° and Blair, WI fell to 36° setting a record for their coldest July temperature. Also, Jump River had the coldest temperature ever recorded in July for Wisconsin.

Other daily record lows included: Grand Forks, ND: 36°, Ste. St. Marie, MI: 37°, Williston, ND: 38°, Duluth, MN: 40°, Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN: 43°, Rochester, MN: 43°, St. Cloud, MN: 43°, Grand Rapids, MI: 45°, Topeka, KS: 47°, Detroit, MI: 49° and Chicago, IL: 50°.


A severe thunderstorm produced vicious downburst winds of up to 135 mph across parts of northern Wisconsin. Damage was extensive in Price, Sawyer, and Oneida Counties with a downburst damage path of 166 miles long and up to 17 miles wide. One person was killed and 35 were injured. Total damage was $24 million dollars.

A widespread severe weather outbreak hit Lower Michigan with tornadoes and downbursts. Two people were injured and almost a million dollars damage was done. A tornado injured one person and destroyed two mobile homes and one barn near Maple Ridge in Arenac County. Another person was inured by a tornado at Otisville in Genesee County as four mobile homes were destroyed there. Two homes and a camper unit were heavily damaged as a tornado moved from southern Isabella County into northern Montcalm County, ending northeast of Vestaburg.


A squall line developed in east central South Dakota during the late afternoon and moved east producing widespread severe thunderstorms. Winds of 90 mph leveled a number of farm buildings in southern Beadle County although no one was injured. A tornado touched down in southern Minnehaha and northern Lincoln counties although the tornado did little damage. Many areas along the squall line reported damaging winds. All told the squall lines' high winds and numerous tornadoes did $7.5 million dollars in damage.

A violent F4 tornado moved slowly through Grant County in North Dakota. The tornado tracked 28 miles in about one hour. Five people were killed in the town of Elgin.


Extremely humid weather was found across central Illinois. Springfield reported 11 consecutive hours with a dewpoint temperature of 80° or higher before a line of severe thunderstorms brought cooler air to the region.


Thunderstorms produced wind gusts to 82 mph at Clearwater, KS, 8 inches of rain in 4 hours at Menno, SD, and 3 inches of rain in just 15 minutes at Austin, KY. Morning thunderstorms drenched Oneonta, AL with 8.6 inches of rain, their greatest 24 hour total in 30 years of records. The heavy rain caused mudslides and serious flooding, claiming two lives.


Thunderstorms produced heavy rain over the Central Gulf Coast Region for the second day in a row. Monroe, LA was deluged with 3.75 inches in two hours.

Aberdeen and Rapid City, SD reported record high temperatures for the date, with readings of 105°. Several record highs were set on this day, including; 103° in Ipswich and Britton; 102° in Webster; 101° in Summit and Artichoke Lake, MN; 99° in Leola; 98° degrees in Clear Lake and Waubay.


Independence Day was hot across parts of the country. Many cities, mostly in the north central U.S., reported record high temperatures for the date, including Williston, ND with a reading of 107°. In the southwestern U.S., highs of 93° at Alamosa, CO, 114° at Tucson, AZ, and 118° at Phoenix, AZ, equaled all-time records for those locations. Other daily records included: Borrego Springs, CA: 118° and Riverside, CA: 108°

Denver, CO went through one of their most intense heat waves on record. The temperature reached 100 degrees or higher on five consecutive days beginning on this date as a record of 101 was set. They never had previously recorded more than two straight 100-degree days. Water and electricity usage reached all time highs. The resulting dry conditions contributed to a major forest fire in Boulder Canyon on the 9th. The temperature reached 101° on the 5th, 102° on the 6ht and 7th and 103° on the 8th.


Tropical Storm Alberto formed in the southeast Gulf of Mexico on July 1st and moved north at 10 mph. The center crossed the panhandle near Destin at 0900z on July 3rd. At landfall the minimum central pressure was 993 millibars (29.32 inHg) with maximum sustained winds of 63 mph and gusts unofficially estimated at 86 mph. The maximum storm tide was 5 feet and the immediate rainfall totaled 2 to7 inches. About 2,000 people voluntarily evacuated. No significant injuries were reported. 13 people were rescued from boats in the northeast Gulf of Mexico. Coastal damage included shoreline erosion (up to 14 feet at Cape San Blas), damage to sea walls, piers and boats, and roof damage to a few beachfront motels. Inland damage included downed signs, billboards, trees, and power lines. Electricity was cut to 18,500 customers for up to two days. Alberto weakened to a depression before moving into southeast Alabama the evening of July 3rd, then meandered around east central Alabama and west central Georgia for 72 hours dropping rains that locally exceeded 20 inches in southwest Georgia. River flooding in Georgia and Alabama spread into the Florida panhandle on July 5th, and along with six to 14 inches of additional rain from the remnants of Alberto, caused extensive flooding. Flood crests exceed 100-year events on the Apalachicola and Chipola Rivers. The first flood crest on the Apalachicola River occurred on July 10 -12. The Apalachicola River remained above flood stage into August, and standing water in localized areas of the panhandle, continued into September, due in part to Tropical Storm Beryl. The flooding caused 3,000 people to evacuate to Red Cross shelters. Damage to buildings, roads, water systems and other public property was estimated at $40 million dollars. Insured losses to buildings and vehicles were estimated at $15 million dollars. Agricultural losses were estimated at $25 million dollars including up to 50% of the peanut, cotton, soybean, and corn crops. Animal losses included 300,000 chickens, 125 steers and hogs and 90% of the oysters in Apalachicola Bay. The tourist industry is estimated to have lost several million dollars in potential revenue.


19 members of a single family were struck by a lightning bolt during a Fourth of July fireworks display in Visalia, NC. A bolt of lightning struck a construction crane, crossed wet ground and surged through a fence, affecting 70 people altogether. Fortunately, no one was killed or seriously injured. It is believed to be the most people ever struck by a single bolt of lightning.


Thousands of evacuated Florida residents would never forget this Fourth of July as they spent the holiday uncertain if they would have a home to return to. More than 120,000 people were ordered to evacuate from homes in Flagler, Brevard and Volusia counties as fire officials closely watched the winds to see which direction the wildfires may head next. More than 480,000 acres of land was scorched and 356 structures destroyed. Damages totaled $270 million dollars. The fires were caused by extreme drought across the South from Texas to Florida. Estimated damages exceeded $6 billion dollars and at least 200 people died because of the dry conditions.

A record of 1.69 inches of rain fell at Calgary, Alberta Canada in six hours, breaking the previous record set in 1909.


A gustnado occurred on this date near Monroe, NC, pulling a large buried post from the ground and carrying it about 100 yards. The F0 tornado also unroofed a barn. A gustnado is a small tornado that forms along the gust front of a thunderstorm. They are usually weak and short-lived. Often gustnados are only visible as a debris or dust whirl.

A severe hailstorm struck Scottsbluff, NE producing hail up to 3 inches in diameter. About 12 people were injured with damage estimated at $50 million dollars.

Palm Springs, CA & Victorville, CA set record highs at 120° and 111° respectively.


Typhoon Rammasun grazed Taiwan bringing welcome rain to drought-stricken regions of the country, but also triggered flash floods and mudslides in northern portions of the island.


The July 4th holiday turned tragic as seven people drowned in rip currents on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan. A line of thunderstorms earlier in the day had produced strong winds across the middle of the lake, and the dangerous currents formed several hours later.


St. George, UT hit an unofficial temperature reading of 118°, which topped the state’s all-time record of 117°, set in St. George in 1985.


About 100 people from a church group at a Fourth of July gathering at Lakeland, FL were playing soccer and volleyball when a lightning bolt or series of strikes hit nearby. The lightning strike killed one person and hospitalized 18 others.


An extreme cold snap hit the Bolivian capital from the temperature down to 23°. The cold and snow killed at least 35.


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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