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Weather History: May 18: Record temps, storms, hail, tornadoes, wind & snow

Meteorological events that happened on May 18th:


A tornado, said to have crossed the entire state of Ohio smashed into the log cabin settlement of Burlington, northeast of Columbus reportedly destroying the entire town.


The fifth deadliest tornado outbreak on record in Illinois affected the northern and central parts of the state. At least 14 strong to violent tornadoes touched down killing 52 people. The largest death toll from a single tornado was 12, with 50 injuries, from an F4 tornado which moved from near Jacksonville to 5 miles west of Petersburg. This tornado completely destroyed the town of Literberry. Another tornado, which peaked at F4 intensity, killed 11 people and injured 50 along its path from the south edge of Springfield northeast to near Kenney. This particular tornado reportedly drove 10 inch by 12 inch oak timbers 10 feet into the ground. An F4 tornado in far northern Illinois touched down near Capron, and tracked for 17 miles before lifting in far southern Wisconsin. Three people were killed near Alden. Other strong to violent tornadoes affected areas around Grafton, Mt. Olive, Shipman, Mason City, Hillsboro, and Pesotum.

An F4 tornado tracked 20 miles through Kenosha and Racine Counties in Wisconsin. Eight people were killed and 85 were injured. The tornado made a spectacular exit as a multiple vortex waterspout over Lake Michigan and was described as: "whirling columns of air seemed like great wreaths of smoke, bearing with them spiral columns of water. A half dozen could be seen at a time, then all would disappear and new ones would reform".


An F4 tornado struck the town of Goliad, TX, killing 114 people. No U.S. tornado disaster of similar magnitude has ever occurred further south than this event.


A spring snowstorm began across parts of the east-central Rockies into parts of the west-central Plains. The storm produced 11.8 inches of snow at Scottsbluff, NE by the end of the day with 5 inches of snow recorded at Cheyenne, WY.


Southeast winds up to 40 mph caused blowing sand in the San Joaquin Valley in California that destroyed 2,000 acres of cotton in the Wheeler Ridge area. Near Coalinga, bulldozers had to remove sand that drifted across highways.


100,000 people evacuated as the Red River crested at 30.3 feet above normal at Winnipeg, Manitoba Canada. Flood waters damaged 5,000 homes and buildings.


Developing three days earlier Tropical Storm Able becomes a hurricane north of the Bahamas. Over the next few days “Able” looped around to the north reaching Category 3 intensity on the 21st off Cape Hatteras, NC. “Able” would move eastward becoming extratropical on the 23rd.


The high temperature in Bishop, CA reached 100 degrees. This was the earliest in the year with temperatures reaching 100° or higher.


Salt Lake City, UT received an inch of snow. It marked their latest measurable snowfall on record.


An unusually heavy spring snow fell across the southern Sierra Nevada and the Tehachapis in central California. Some snowfall totals included: Lodgepole: 8 inches, Grant Grove: 4 inches, Tehachapi: 2.3 inches and Glennville: 0.3 inches.


Baseball size hail fell from a severe thunderstorm over Hollis, in Harmon County, Oklahoma. The hail destroyed thousands of windows and damaged most of the roofs in the town. Two people were injured when they were hit by the hail.


Mount St. Helens in Washington erupted, ejecting smoke and ash to a height of 63,000 feet. The smoke plume rose to a height of 80,000 feet. The earth was covered with heavy ash to the immediate northeast and visibility was reduced to under a mile for a downwind distance of 400 miles. The smoke and ash made it to the east coast in three days and around the globe in 19 days. Five deaths resulted and over 2,000 people were evacuated due to mudslides and flooding when the snowpack melted.


At Newark, NJ, the barometric pressure fell to 29.23 inHg to establish an all-time record low reading for the month of May.


Thunderstorms in Kansas, developing along a cold front, spawned tornadoes at Emporia and Toledo, produced wind gusts to 65 mph at Fort Scott, and produced golf ball size hail in the Kansas City area.

Unseasonably hot weather prevailed ahead of the cold front from the Plains to the East Coast. Locations that reported record highs for the date included: Altus OK: 100°-Tied, Bartlesville, OK: 96°, Tulsa, OK: 94°, Langley AFB, VA: 94°, Pomona, NJ: 93°, Atlantic City, NJ: 93°, Norfolk, VA: 93°, Elizabeth, NC: 93°, Sterling (Dulles Airport), VA: 91°, Oceana, VA: 91°, Waterloo, IA: 90°, Slidell, LA: 90°, Joplin, MO: 90° and Patuxent NAS, MD: 89°-Tied.


Low pressure anchored over eastern Virginia kept showers and thunderstorms over the Middle Atlantic Coast Region. Flash flooding was reported in Pennsylvania. Up to five inches of rain drenched Franklin County, Pennsylvania in 24 hours.


Thunderstorms developing ahead of a cold front produced severe weather from the Central Gulf Coast States to the Lower Missouri Valley during the day and evening. Thunderstorms spawned 16 tornadoes, and there were 74 reports of large hail and damaging winds.


Thunderstorms produced severe weather in the central U.S. spawning 16 tornadoes, including a dozen in Nebraska. Thunderstorms also produced hail 4 inches in diameter at Perryton TX, wind gusts to 84 mph at Ellis, KS, and high winds which caused nearly $2 million dollars damage at Sutherland, NE. Thunderstorms deluged Sioux City, IA with up to 8 inches of rain, resulting in a record flood crest on Perry Creek and at least $4.5 million dollars damage.


A severe weather outbreak occurred in the Ohio and Mississippi Valleys. 86 tornadoes were reported; five F4 intensity. This was one of the largest tornado outbreaks in two decades in Tennessee. 6 people were killed and 65 others injured. Three people were killed at Ethridge TN. A tornado causing F2 damage touched down near Festus, MO causing almost $200,000 dollars in damage.

An F2 tornado touched down on the eastern shore of the Chesapeake Bay, one mile south of Cordova in the Kittys Corner area, destroying two homes. The tornado proceeded
through an unpopulated area of Talbot and southwestern Caroline County crossing into Caroline about 4 miles south of Hillsboro, along Tuckahoe Creek. The tornado lifted in Martinak State Park, just south of Denton, 3 miles NE of Williston.

Boston, MA finally hit 70°; the latest in the spring that 70 degrees or higher occurred there.


A strong thunderstorm produced a wet microburst and two tornadoes at Apple Valley, CA. Winds were estimated at 130 to 140 mph. The winds caused structural damage and downed power lines caused fires.

Goshen, IN was hard-hit by 75 mph winds that knocked over many trees and did some roof damage. A 93 mph wind gust was recorded at Michiana Regional Airport in South Bend, IN. Roof and tree damage occurred in Berrien County. A woman was injured in Hillsdale when wind blew her trailer over. 67 mph winds blew through Ridgeville Corners, Ohio. A tree killed a man in Ottawa, OH when it fell on his car.


A series of thunderstorms formed and moved over a two county area of east central Illinois, over a two and a half hour period. Over $4 million worth of damage resulted. The most intense damage was reported in the Jamaica and Georgetown areas. Georgetown was hit twice within an hour's time by baseball sized hail. Thousands of cars sustained major hail damage. Also, hundreds of homes and businesses had windows broken out, and siding damaged. In the town of Jamaica, the high school sustained an estimated $300,000 damage. In Pesotum, 11 Illinois State Patrol cars sustained hail damage, totaling $24,000. No injuries were reported. Further north, severe thunderstorms in the Chicago metropolitan area blew down over 1,000 trees in Highland Park, and produced a wind gust of 84 mph at Wheeling. A man in Wilmette was killed when a tree fell on his car. Airline travelers were greatly affected. United Airlines cancelled over 500 flights in and out of O'Hare Airport because of the storms.


An unusually cold airmass for mid-May brought many record lows to the Midwest, Plains and South along with unseasonable snows to the Northeast. Some record lows included: Hibbing, MN: 22°, International Falls, MN: 24°, Houghton, MI: 24°, Fargo, ND: 25°, Grand Forks, ND: 25°, Watertown, SD: 25°, Jamestown, ND: 26°, Bismarck, ND: 26°, Pierre, SD: 26°, Huron, SD: 26°, Minot, ND: 27°, Duluth, MN: 28°, Madison, WI: 28°, Sioux Falls, SD: 30°, Norfolk, NE: 30°, Valentine, NE: 30°, Hill City, KS: 30°, Wausau, WI: 30°, Rockford, IL: 31°, Binghamton, NY: 32°-Tied, Milwaukee, WI: 33°, Moline, IL: 33°, Mansfield, OH: 33°, Worcester, MA: 33°, Bluefield, WV: 33°-Tied, Lincoln, NE: 34°, Sioux City, IA: 34°, Peoria, IL: 34°, Chicago-O'Hare, IL: 34°, Burlington, IA: 35°, Cedar Rapids, IA: 35°, La Crosse, WI: 35°, Quincy, IL: 35°, Akron, OH: 35°, Columbia, MO: 35°, Blue Hill, MA: 35°, Dubuque, IA: 35°-Tied, Des Moines, IA: 36°, Altoona, PA: 36°-Tied, Omaha, NE: 37°, Harrison, AR: 37°, Springfield, MO: 37°, Boston, MA: 37, Pittsburgh, PA: 37°-Tied, Springfield, IL: 38°, Concordia, KS: 39°, Joplin, MO: 39°, St. Louis, MO: 39°, Paducah, KY: 39°, Gage, OK: 40°-Tied, Evansville, IN: 41°, Hobart, OK: 42°, Tulsa, OK: 44°, Memphis, TN: 44°, New York (LaGuardia), NY: 44°-Tied, Childress, TX: 47°, Wichita Falls, TX: 47°-Tied, Memphis, TN: 47°-Tied, Mobile, AL: 53°, Victoria, TX: 57°-Tied and Lake Charles, LA: 57°-Tied.

A late season snow occurred over the Northeast. Prattsville, NY recorded 8 inches. 2.2 inches fell at Albany, NY for its latest measurable snowfall on record. Snow fell as far south as northern Pennsylvania.


On this date through the 20th, the heaviest rainfall in nearly 20 years affected the American Samoan Islands, causing mudslides that killed 4 people. Rainfall at Pago-Pago by the 19th totaled 10.68 inches.


On this date through the 25th, low-pressure brought heavy showers and thunderstorms to Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Rainfall amounts exceeded 19.7 inches and caused major flooding. The number of dead and missing reached 3,300.


On this date through the 19th, Edson, Alberta Canada received 10 inches of snow.

Iceland recorded temperatures well above normal. Thingvellir National Park soared to 68°.


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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