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Weather History: May 17: Record temps, storms, hail, tornadoes, wind & snow

Meteorological events that happened on May 17th:

Research on lightning deaths finds that most fatalities occur at the time that the storm appears to be ending. During the height of a thunderstorm most people are inside seeking protection from the rain. For about a 10 minute period after the rain ends (sometimes longer) and even when it seems that the sun is coming out...lightning can still be quite a threat. People begin to head back outdoors and these late lightning strikes prove very dangerous.


An "uncommon frost" in all of New England destroyed crops. The account was published in the collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society.


A three-day flood in the Black Hills of western South Dakota resulted in a million dollars damage at Rapid City.


An early season tropical storm raked Cuba and the Bahamas.


An F5 tornado tracked 100 miles through northeastern Kansas and extreme southeastern Nebraska. Seneca, Oneida, Sabetha, and Reserve, Kansas sustained severe damage. While passing through Reserve the tornado was 2 miles wide. 25 people were killed and 200 were injured. Damage was estimated at $400,000 dollars.


Snow fell in the central Netherlands, the latest in the spring that snow has been observed here.


A severe dust storm struck Hanford ahead of an approaching cold front. This front helped to produce showers that resulted in hefty precipitation totals across parts of the Sierra in a short time period. The Wishon Power House recorded 2 inches of rain in just 15 minutes. A small tornado also occurred about 10 miles northwest of Fresno causing unspecified damaged. Las Vegas, NV recorded 0.01 inches of rain. This was the only time measurable rain has fallen on this day.


SMS-1, the first geosynchronous weather satellite, was launched.


Several homes caught fire during an early morning thunderstorm accompanied by a violent lightning display that moved across Crystal Lake, IL. Lightning struck a home under construction causing extensive fire damage. Fire caused by lightning also brought entire destruction to a garage at the same location.


Hawaii recorded its coldest temperature ever. Mauna Kea Observatory, at 13,770 feet above sea level dropped to 12°. Hawaii is the only state in the United States that has not recorded below zero temperatures.


Thunderstorms dumped 16 inches of rain in a 24 hour period at Lake Charles, LA.


A golfer playing the Fox Meadows Course in Memphis, TN was struck by a bolt of lightning that went through his neck, down his spine, came out a pocket containing his keys, and went into a nearby tree. Miraculously, he survived.


A summer-like weather pattern continued, with warm temperatures and scattered thunderstorms across much of the nation. A cold front in the north central U.S. produced a sharp contrast in the weather across the state of Minnesota during the afternoon. At the same time, Duluth was 50° with rain and fog, Mankato was 95° with sunny skies.


Thunderstorms produced large hail and damaging winds over the Carolinas during the afternoon and evening. A "thunderstorm of a lifetime" in northern Spartanburg County, SC produced hail for 45 minutes, leaving some places up to knee-deep.


Thunderstorms ravaged the south central U.S. with severe weather for the third day in a row. Thunderstorms spawned another 19 tornadoes, for a total of 50 tornadoes in three days. A strong F2 tornado injured 14 people and caused $2 million dollars damage at Apple Springs, TX. Baseball size hail was reported at Matador, TX.


Thunderstorms developing along a cold front produced severe weather in New York State during the late morning and afternoon. A tornado injured one person at Warren, and wind gusts to 80 mph were reported at Owego and 61 mph at the airport in Buffalo. Wind damage was reported in Brocton, Buffalo, Brighton, Penfield, Canandaigua, Phelps, Naples, Clyde, West Walworth and Sodus.

Evening thunderstorms over southwest Texas produced wind gusts to 80 mph at Marfa, along with golf ball size hail which accumulated to a depth of 10 inches. Late night thunderstorms over southwest Texas produced up to 7 inches of rain in western Crockett County.


The severe weather that began the previous day persisted into this day producing flash flooding over the western and central parts of Oklahoma. Rainfall accumulations of nearly 9 inches flooded many low lying areas and houses in the Weatherford area. In Kingfisher, flood waters covered 64 square blocks of town, and forced the evacuation of 600 people. The National Guard was called in to help in the evacuation as the flood waters reached 6 to 8 feet deep in a few places. The floods washed out 11 major bridges in Lincoln County.


An F1 tornado touched down 20 miles southeast of Wilmot or 5 miles northwest of Ortonville, MN at Schmidts Landing on Big Stone Lake. The roof was ripped off of a house and a garage wall was blown off its foundation. Three RV's were demolished and a trailer was overturned and destroyed. This tornado moved into Big Stone County and intensified. This tornado became an F3 as it crossed Big Stone Lake from Roberts County, destroying one cabin at the Meadowbrook Resort in the process. It also blew the roof off another cabin, and third cabin was demolished when a tree fell onto it. Several boats on Big Stone Lake were overturned. Approximately 150 buildings sustained damage or were destroyed as the tornado moved northeast across Big Stone County. Southwest of Clinton, a pontoon boat and a camper were destroyed. East of Clinton, a farm lost all buildings with severe damage to their home. Estimated property damage was listed at $1.5 million dollars. A wind gust of 90 mph blew two garage roofs off, destroyed an antenna, blew large trees down, and also a grain dryer was blown down near Dumont, Minnesota. Softball size hail pummeled Charles City, IA. Property damage was estimated at $600,000, with an additional $25,000 in crop damage.

5 to 8 inches of rain fell across northern DeKalb County, Indiana producing widespread flooding. Serious flooding along Fish Creek produced one fatality as someone tried to drive through flood waters and was swept away. Ten inches of rain in six hours gave Antwerp and Bryan, Ohio their worst flooding in 70 years, with $3 million dollars damage.

Outflow winds from collapsing thunderstorms cause gusts to 47 mph at Fresno, CA.


Hail the size of tennis balls pelted Dryden and Fort Francis, Ontario Canada in a 5-minute blitz. Damage to auto glass and house roofs were extensive

Yellowknife, Northwest Territories in Canada made local weather history when the morning temperature dropped to a record low of 15°.


High winds occurred along and east of the Front Range Foothills of Colorado as a deep surface low pressure center formed over the northeast plains of Colorado. Peak winds included: 88 mph at the National Wind Technology Center, 84 mph in Boulder and 80 mph at the National Center for Atmospheric Research Mesa Laboratory. Severe weather was reported over the Plains to the northeast of Denver.


Beginning on this date through the 30th, southern India suffered through a torrid heat wave. The death toll from the two-week heat wave climbed to 637. At least 119 deaths were reported in Nalgonda and 85 in East Godavari where the temperature soared to 117°.


High temperatures soar to 122° in some locations in the Indian state of Orissa.


On this date through the 20th, record rainfall totals occurred across parts of north-central Florida. Bunnell, FL recorded 23.75 inches of rain. Rainfall on the 20th alone totaled 9.27 inches at Jacksonville Naval Air Station and 6.74 inches at Daytona Beach.


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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