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Weather History: May 11: Record temps, storms, tornadoes, hail, wind & snow

Meteorological events that happened on May 11th:


A tornado touched down in Philadelphia around 6pm ET, killing one person and injuring 15 others. There was great destruction to property, with 23 houses blown down, damage to the Reading Railroad depot, with the water tank carried 150 yards. Fairmont Park was damaged to the amount of $20,000 dollars.


A severe thunderstorm produced 58 mph wind gusts at the Delaware Breakwater. High tides swept away railroad tracks near Sandy Hook, NJ. Many ships were sent aground in New York Bay.


A tremendous dust storm affected the Plains as the Dust Bowl era was in full swing.


Baltimore, MD recorded their latest snowfall on record with a trace.


A few snow flurries fell at Springfield, IL establishing the date of the city's latest snowfall on record


People in Waco, TX were unconcerned about the tornado alerts issued by the U.S. Weather Bureau, putting their faith in a myth that the hills surrounding the city protected them. Around 4:30 pm CT, a massive F5 tornado developed southwest of the city and cut a path through residential areas toward the heart of downtown. There was no warning. The twister devastated downtown Waco, killing 114 people and injuring 597 more. 30 people were killed in a six-story furniture store, which collapsed. Some downtown streets were buried under five feet of fallen bricks. Total damage was $41 million dollars. An F4 tornado virtually leveled 15 square blocks of San Angelo, TX with 13 people killed and 159 others injured.


Searchlight, NV recorded 1.17 inches of rain, setting a record for the day. This was also the only time daily rainfall over an inch was recorded in May.


An intense are of low pressure moved across southern Illinois during the late night while cold Canadian high pressure settled in further north. The combination produced strong easterly winds and a very cold rain mixing with snow from parts of the northern Plains to the Midwest. The 1.6 inches of snow at Chicago, IL was their latest measurable snow on record. South Bend, IN also reported their latest measurable snowfall of 0.6 inches.

Across north-central and northeast South Dakota and west-central Minnesota, snowfall totals included: Timber Lake, SD: 4 inches, Eureka, SD: 3 inches, Mobridge, SD: 3 inches, Roscoe; SD: 3 inches, Artichoke Lake MN: 2 inches, Pollock, MN: 2 inches and Waubay, MN: 2 inches.

Many cities across the East reported record cold. Philadelphia, PA plunged to a record May low of 28°. Locations that reported daily record lows included: Elkins, WV: 22°, Concord, NH: 23°, Martinsburg, WV: 26°, Burlington, VT: 27°-Tied, Youngstown, OH: 28°, Rochester, NY: 29°, Lynchburg, VA: 31°, Buffalo, NY: 31°-Tied, Richmond, VA: 32°, Harrisburg, PA: 32°, Greensboro, NC: 35°-Tied, Newark, NJ: 36°, Knoxville, TN: 41°-Tied, Wilmington, NC: 43°-Tied, Atlanta, GA: 45° and Charleston, SC: 47°.


A very powerful F5 tornado struck Lubbock, TX killing 26 people and injuring more than 1500 others along its 8.5 mile track. 600 apartment units were destroyed along with 430 houses. 250 businesses were damaged or destroyed. 80% of the windows in the downtown area were broken. Damaged was conservatively estimated at $250 million dollars. It was the most destructive tornado on record up until that time, and came on the 17th anniversary of the twister which struck Waco, TX killing 114 people. A second tornado killed two people in Lubbock, and both twisters damaged or destroyed nearly a quarter of the city.


Very heavy wet spring snow fell across parts of northern Montana. Billings received a May record of 15 inches; 2.11 inches of liquid equivalent and Red Lodge reported 20 inches.


The second of three severe weather episodes occurred on this date through the 12th across parts of Oklahoma. On this date, severe thunderstorms produced 18 tornadoes across the western part of the state. One tornado touched down southeast of Altus and moved across Altus Air Force Base. In Altus, almost every roof in town was damaged by large hail. At the base, 70 buildings were damaged or destroyed, 30 airplanes were damaged, and 6,000 vehicles suffered hail or tornado damage. Overall, two people were killed, 60 others injured, and the total damage from this particular storm was more than $200 million dollars.


A late spring snowstorm hit the western third of South Dakota on this date through the 12th. Snow amounts ranged from 3 to 10 inches and in some areas the snow was accompanied by thunder, lightning, sleet, and hail making for an interesting mix of weather. The heaviest snow amounts fell in the northern Black Hills although some areas in the plains had strong winds creating drifts high enough to make roads impassable.


Thunderstorms, first exploding in southwest Iowa, developed northward and spread east during the afternoon hours. The first report of severe weather came from Carroll where 70 mph winds were recorded at the airport. Near Tingley, a trailer house was moved 18 inches off its foundation and another house lost siding, shingles, a stair rail and several windows. Strong winds demolished a grain bin and implement building at Percival and winds of 50 to 70 mph tore off tree limbs and knocked down a barn at Hastings. In addition, about a third of the roof on the Junior High Gym was destroyed in Atlantic.


A tornado struck south of Morden, Manitoba Canada, destroying farm buildings and ripping off tree tops. Beams from one shed roof were blown 330 feet and driven 12 inches into the ground.


Early morning thunderstorms produced up to 4 inches of rain in parts of southern Texas, with flooding reported from Maverick County to Eagle Pass.

Evening thunderstorms in northern Illinois produced golf ball size hail and wind gusts to 70 mph.


Many locations across the West reported record high temperatures for the date including: Walla Walla, WA: 91°, Long Beach, CA: 91°, Reno, NV: 89°, Roseburg, OR: 88°-Tied, Redmond, OR: 88°-Tied, Meacham, OR: 81°, Oakland, CA: 81°-Tied, Santa Barbara, CA: 78°-Tied and Nenana, AK: 70°.


Afternoon and evening thunderstorms produced severe weather across the northern Plains. Thunderstorm winds gusted to 71 mph at Gillette, WY, and baseball size hail was reported at Pecos and Fort Stockton, TX. Fort Stockton, TX was deluged with 7.75 inches of rain in less than two hours.

Wind gusts of 60 mph overturned an airplane taxiing on the runway at the Mojave Airport in California.

Nearly two weeks of consistent rainfall across the western southern part of New York State caused streams and creeks to reach their limits. In Chautauqua County a few low lying roads were barricaded because of high water. In Cattaraugus County at the Onoville Marina on the Allegheny River, ramps to the docks were under two feet of water. Also in Cattaraugus County, a mudslide occurred on one of the ski slopes at the Holiday Valley Resort Area in Ellicottville.


Thunderstorms produced severe weather in Kansas, Oklahoma and the northern half of Texas. Severe storms spawned 4 tornadoes in Texas and produced high winds which overturned four mobile homes northwest of Abilene injuring 10 people.

Unseasonably cold weather followed in the wake of a spring storm from the north central U.S. to the Southeast. Many cities reported record low temperatures for the date including: Sidney, NE: 26-Tied, Madison, WI: 29°, Wausau, WI: 30°-Tied, Rockford, IL: 31°, LaCrosse, WI: 32°, London, KY: 36°-Tied, Moline, IL: 37°-Tied, Paducah, KY: 38°, Nashville, TN: 39°-Tied, Evansville, IN: 40°-Tied, Anniston, AL: 43°-Tied, Huntsville, AL: 44°-Tied, Montgomery, AL: 45°, Tuscaloosa, AL: 45° and Alma, GA: 45°.


Numerous tornadoes touched down across southwest and west central South Dakota causing considerable damage. Strong winds and hail swept through the Custer National Forest damaging up to 2,500 acres of trees. Numerous tornadoes touched down in the Rapid City area. One tornado damaged several homes and destroyed, at least, 9 mobile homes 5 miles north of Rapid City. A larger tornado, reportedly over a quarter of a mile wide, with winds estimated between 150 and 200 mph just 5 to 10 miles north of Rapid City destroyed 9 homes and damaged 150 others. The storm caused many injuries, but no deaths. Also, at least 7 tornadoes were spotted in the Edgemont area although damage was light.


A tornado destroyed the Dunkerton, IA City Hall. The City Hall was housed in a series of doublewide mobile homes after the original building was destroyed in a 1999 flood.


Nashville, TN broke their 24 hour rainfall record for the month of May as 4.63 inches fell.


A tornado derailed a Burlington Northern Santa Fe train near Hartley, TX, sending 15 empty coal cars and two locomotives off the tracks.


Grand Island, NE set new 6, 12, and 24 hour rainfall records with 6.38 inches in 6 hours, 7.16 inches in 12 hours and 7.21 inches in 24 hours.

Very heavy rain also fell in parts of northern Montana. Red Lodge and the surrounding foothills received 4.5 to 7 inches washing out some roads.


Unusually heavy rain fell over the desert at the northern edge of Patagonia, Argentina. 1.85 inches fell at Neuquen, where they only see an average of 0.59 inches of rain a year.

A mini-tornado damaged half a dozen homes north of Auckland, New Zealand as it tore through residential neighborhoods. In the Western Bay of Plenty, observers watched five waterspouts offshore from their homes at Town Point.


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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