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Weather History: May 19: Record temps, storms, wind, tornadoes, snow & tropics

Listed are Meteorological events that happened on May 19th:


On St. Dunstan's Day, a tornado that traveled from Windsor to St Albans, England was described as a "marvelous sore tempest of weather, the air being darkened on every side from the four corners thereof, and withal chanced such a thunder as few the like had been heard."


Forest fires in Michigan sent smoke across New England, which made the sky as dark at noon as it would have been at night. The darkness caused chickens to roost. People were fearful of divine wrath.


A spring storm came to an end after producing widespread snow. Total snowfall from the storm included: 17.6 inches in Scottsbluff, NE, 8 inches at Cheyenne, WY and 7 inches at Chadron, NE.


Many rivers in central Illinois were affected by record flooding during the month. On the Sangamon River, a record crest of 31.52 feet occurred at Riverton on this date. Downstream, a stage of 33.9 feet at Petersburg on the 20th resulted in large sections of the town being flooded.


Lake Maloya, NM received 11.28 inches of rain in 24 hours to establish a state record.


A heat wave gripped the East Coast with high temperatures reaching 99° at New York City, 98° at Baltimore, MD and 96° at Philadelphia, PA (all either broke or tied records for the month of May.). Other daily records included: Greenville-Spartanburg, SC: 99°, Newark, NJ: 98°, Concord, NH: 97°, Allentown, PA: 97°, Richmond, VA: 97°, Athens, GA: 97°, Columbus, GA: 97°, Philadelphia, PA: 96°, Atlantic City, NJ: 96°, Roanoke, VA: 96°, Chattanooga, TN: 96°, LaGuardia, NY: 95°, Harrisburg, PA: 95°, Wilmington, DE: 95°, Charlotte, NC: 95°, Raleigh, NC: 95°, Nashville, TN: 95°, Hartford, CT: 94°, Lynchburg, VA: 93°, Knoxville, TN: 93°, Oak Ridge, TN: 93°, Worcester, MA: 92°, Avoca, PA: 92°, Milton, MA: 91°, Bristol, TN: 91°, Caribou, ME: 87° and Buffalo, NY: 86°.


Thunderstorms produced golf ball size hail and wind gusts to 110 mph in parts of Minnesota, between Fridley and Hugo. 50 people were injured. The hail and high winds destroyed 50 mobile homes, and a dozen aircraft, and also destroyed a third of the Brighton Elementary School.


Over a 9 day period, this was the fourth day of a terrible heat in the Chicago, IL area. Over the 9 day period, the daily high temperature was 90° or higher setting eight high temperature records. The monthly average for those 9 days was 69.3° or about 20 degrees above normal.


With the ground in Black Hills already saturated from heavy rains the previous week, developing thunderstorms were not a welcome sight on this date. The thunderstorms produced additional heavy rains including 3.58 inches at Spearfish, 3.32 inches at Cheyenne Crossing and 0.82 inches in 12 minutes at Hot Springs. With Flash Flood Warnings in effect for much of the area water came out of the banks of many streams causing widespread damage in the Hills. A diversion Dam broke at Spearfish causing a mud slide to cover some roads. In Deadwood the main water line broke leaving the city temporarily without water. Homes were evacuated at Nisland, Hot Springs, and Bridger. Damage throughout the Black Hills included washed out bridges, flooded basements, several breached dams, and roads completely washed away.


Record rainfall occurred along the Texas coast with 4.22 inches at Beaumont in 6 hours and 6 inches in 8 hours at Port Arthur.


Thunderstorms in Texas produced 13 inches of rain northwest of Lavernia. The heavy rain, along with golf ball size hail, destroyed 80% of the crops in the area, while high winds toppled trees. Golf ball size hail was also reported south of Dallas and around San Antonio. Up to 8 inches of rain drenched Guadelupe County.


Severe thunderstorms in southwest Texas produced hail as large as tennis balls around Midland, with the hail accumulating up to a foot deep. Showers and thunderstorms in the Middle Atlantic Coast Region produced 3.5 inches of rain near Schuylkill, PA.


Thunderstorms developing ahead of a cold front spawned 10 tornadoes from Illinois to Tennessee during the afternoon and night. Snow, wind and cold prevailed in the Northern Plateau Region and the Northern Rockies. Dixie, ID was blanketed with 9 inches of snow, winds gusted to 87 mph at Choteau, MT, and the temperature at Crater Lake, OR dipped to 11°.


Thunderstorms deluged Hot Springs, AR with 13 inches of rain in 9 hours resulting in a devastating flood. Two waves of water, 4 to 6 feet deep, swept down Central Avenue flooding stores and the famous bathhouses on Bathhouse Row. Water released from Lake Hamilton devastated the area between it and Remmel Dam. The 500 foot Carpenter Dam Bridge across Lake Catherine was completely washed away, as were cabins and mobile homes near the lake, many of which flowed right over the top of Remmel Dam.

A large thunderstorm complex developed over parts of South Dakota, Iowa and Minnesota. Severe weather was limited with these storms but they dumped heavy rain causing flash flooding in Crawford, Woodbury and Plymouth Counties in western Iowa. On one farm near Denison in Crawford County, about 100 hogs were killed as 8 to 10 feet of water flooded a barn from 3.50 inches of rain in just over an hour. Damage in Crawford County was estimated at $2 million dollars. In Plymouth County, two to four inches of rain caused extensive flooding, especially to basements. But the most serious flooding occurred in the Sioux City area. Four to eight inches of rain fell causing a record flood crest on the Perry Creek. The creek crested about seven feet over flood stage causing the evacuation of about 1,000 homes. 526 homes sustained damage along with 86 businesses causing $4.5 million dollars in damage.


A southern California radio station reported that more than 20 homes were flooded in Twentynine Palms from heavy thunderstorm rains. Also, the flooding closed Route 62 for about 10 hours due to mud and debris across the road. Damage was estimated at $200,000 dollars.

Washington, DC tied a record with a high of 96°.


Drivers faced blackout conditions, as the wind whipped topsoil off farmers' fields over the roads, reducing visibility between Red Deer and Calgary Alberta Canada. A blinding wall of soil contributed to a 15-car pileup near the town of Carstairs. Two hours later, a freak snowstorm pounded Calgary, changing blackouts to whiteouts.


Key West, FL recorded 4.02 inches of rain in 24 hours as a slow moving band of storms lingered over the area. Their average May precipitation is 3.31 inches.

Snowflakes flew across Lower Michigan as record cold weather prevails. Record lows include the 26° at Lansing, 29° at Muskegon and 30° at Grand Rapids. The freezing temperatures cause heavy losses to orchards across western Lower Michigan. Meanwhile on the same day Fairbanks, AK reached 77°.


Two tornadoes struck southwestern Ontario Canada within minutes of each other and just a few miles apart. One touched down at Gads Hill, near Stratford, likely the strongest to hit Ontario in 8 years. The other hit near the town of Mitchell.

Unnamed tropical cyclone “3a” swept through western Myanmar with winds of up to 105 mph, leaving at least 140 people dead and 18,000 people homeless.


Heavy rainfall caused severe flooding and landslides that affected more than 600 people and kill at least 13 in the Antioquia Province in Colombia, South America. Hardest hit were the municipalities of Taraza and Valdiva.


Even by American desert standards, the searing heat is one for the books. Death Valley, CA sizzled at 120° while residents of Phoenix, AZ witnessed the year's first high of 110°.


At 4pm local time, Granite Falls in southwestern Minnesota sizzled with a temperature of 100° while the town of Grand Marais on the shore of Lake Superior shivered with a temperature of just 34°.


The Atlantic hurricane season got off to an early start as Tropical Storm Alberto became the first storm of the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season. It was located about 130 miles east-southeast of Charleston, SC. The storm meandered off the South Carolina and Georgia coasts before moving east and dissipating on the 22nd.


Check out my colleague Weather Examiners:

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Orlando, FL area weather with Dr. Steve Oliver at

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

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