Skip to main content
Report this ad

See also:

Weather History: May 20: Record temps, storms, tropics, tornadoes, wind & snow

Meteorological events that happened on May 20th:


A waterspout moved on land at Bexhill, Sussex England and became a tornado. The tornado leveled many buildings along its path of destruction, 12 miles long and on average 380 yards wide.


A dust storm blew all day at Baghdad, Iraq. Then at about 5 pm, a darkness set in "deeper than the darkest night" terror


Snow and high winds pelted western New England, leaving 10 inches on the ground at Strafford, VT.


A record late snow of 2 to 8 inches whitened parts of central and eastern Kentucky. Lexington, KY received 6 inches of snow.


Codell, KS is hit by a tornado on May 20th for three consecutive years (1916, 1917 & 1918). Each successive one is more damaging. The tornadoes are estimated to be F2, F3 and F4 respectively on the Fujita Scale.


Eight or more tornadoes were involved along an 85 mile long track across the counties of Gray, Ford, Hodgeman and Pawnee. Newspapers in the area used headlines such as Tornado army attacks Kansas to describe the record breaking number of tornadoes, at least 40 that hit the central and western part of the state. No people were killed, but hundreds of animals perished. Four funnels were seen moving northeast about 6 miles northwest of Dodge City. A tornado moved northeast from 7 miles southwest of Coldwater, KS, just missing that town, and ending at Wilmore. The "huge rotating column" sent the entire town of Coldwater running to storm cellars. Most of the $200,000 damage was at Wilmore, as the entire town was torn apart.

This is only one of two days in recorded U.S. history when 100 or more tornadoes occurred. The other was April 3, 1974.


A tornado touched down near Williamsburg, KS and traveled northeast a distance of 71 miles, cutting a swath of nearly total destruction through Kansas City's southern suburbs of Martin City, Ruskin Heights, and Hickman Mills. The tornado, an F4 on the Fujita scale, killed 44 people and injured 531 others. A canceled check from Hickman Mills was found at Ottumwa, IA; 165 miles away. Pilots reported debris at 30,000 feet.


Known as Black Saturday in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey, flames from a forest fire moved 9 miles in just 6 hours. The flames would burn for 11 days. Seven people were killed and nearly 1,000 left homeless as more than 200,000 acres burn.


A small outbreak of weak tornadoes swirled across Newbrook, Alberta Canada causing property damage. In one incident, a chimney cap from a hardware store resembled a frisbee as it sailed through a nearby window.


Hilo, HI recorded their hottest day on record when the temperature soared to 94°.


Severe thunderstorms with strong winds pummeled much of northern Illinois during the afternoon and evening hours. Wind gusts to 70 mph were reported at the Greater Rockford Airport. These storms also dropped golf ball size hail and strong winds caused widespread damage across northern Illinois. The city of Dwight suffered major damage as 80 mph winds ravaged the town for 10 straight minutes and gusts to 90 mph were recorded. Roofs were blown off homes and businesses and seven mobile homes were demolished. A tractor trailer was blown on its side and several cars were blown off a highway. Heavy rain caused widespread flooding of expressways, viaducts and basements in the Chicago area. These storms killed one person and injured 12 others.


2.5 inches of rain fell in just 30 minutes at Milford, OH, a suburb of Cincinnati.


Brush fires near Fort Myers, FL resulted in the evacuation of s hospital and several homes.


Thunderstorms in southern Texas produced grapefruit size hail, near the town of Dilley, and produced wind gusts to 73 mph at Lake Amistad. The large hail broke windows and damaged watermelon crops.

Thunderstorms developing along a warm front produced severe weather from Indiana to the Dakotas. Thunderstorms produced baseball size hail at Denver, IA, and wind gusts to 80 mph in southern Henry County, Illinois.


Thunderstorms in the south central U.S. produced wind gusts to 70 mph at Omaha, NE, and wind gusts to 80 mph at Midland and Dallas, TX.

Temperatures in California soared into the 90s and above 100 degrees. San Jose, CA reported a record high of 97°.


Pre-dawn thunderstorms produced large hail in eastern Oklahoma and northwestern Arkansas. Later in the morning thunderstorms in North Carolina produced dime size hail at Hanging Dog. Thunderstorms also produced severe weather from the Lower Mississippi Valley to the Central Plains Region later that day and night, with baseball size hail reported around Lawn, Novice and Eola, TX.


Thunderstorms produced severe weather across the southeastern quarter of the nation through the day and night. Severe thunderstorms spawned 6 tornadoes, including one which injured two people at Algoma, MS and another which injured 9 people at Rogersville, MO. There were 119 reports of large hail or damaging winds. Thunderstorms produced baseball size hail at Houston, MO and damaging winds which killed one person at Toccoa, GA.

Nearly 13 inches of rain fell in just 9 hours at Hot Springs, AR. A wall of water 4 to 6 feet high roared though the city. Cars, many occupied, were seen floating down Central Avenue. 85 people had to be rescued from flooded cars and buildings.

Very large hail fell from severe thunderstorms over the Oklahoma City metropolitan area. The northern and western parts of the city were the hardest hit, as hail up to grapefruit size pounded the area. The hail broke windows and damaged roofs, resulting in about $50 million in damage. Heavy rain made matters worse. Severe flash flooding hampered cleanup efforts after 5 to 7 inches of rain fell.


Bridgeport, CT soared to 97° for its hottest temperature on record in May. Washington, D.C. set a daily record high of 96°.


Up to 1 million people were left homeless by a cyclone with winds of 145 mph that struck Bangladesh, killing 46 people. About a third of the casualties were reported in the port city Chittagong, Bangladesh's second largest city. Tidal surges 6 feet high covered islands and crops while winds toppled trees. Since 1970, such storms have left an estimated 1.5 million people dead.

The rainfall total for the year at Victoria, TX stood at a whopping 34.69 inches, nearly 30 inches above 1996's January to May total of 4.81 inches and very near the normal rainfall for the entire year.


A devastating cyclone, packing winds of up to 170 mph and a high storm surge, struck the Sindh Province in southern Pakistan. 600 villages were devastated and more than 400 people perished.


Damaging winds developed behind a vigorous cold front that moved south from Wyoming into northern Colorado. High winds gusted to 58 mph at Denver International Airport downing trees and power lines, and kicked up blowing dust, dirt and debris reducing visibility to near zero at times. The poor visibility caused a multi-vehicle accident north of Fort Lupton. Several vehicles including semi-trailers were blown off of I-70 east of Denver. Peak wind gusts included 68 mph near Parker and 63 mph near Sedalia. Many customers in and around Denver were without power and at least a dozen flights were diverted to other airports. After the frontal passage, temperatures plunged from the low 70’s to the mid 30’s in just one hour as light snow developed. Heavy snow fell in the foothills during the evening. Snowfall totals included: 7 inches near Blackhawk & Ken Caryl Ranch, 6 inches at Coal Creek Canyon, Eldorado Springs and atop Lookout Mountain, 5 inches at Chief Hosa, Louisville, Rollinsville and Wheat Ridge and 4 inches at Aurora, Bailey, Parker, Castle Rock and near Morrison. The low temperature of 31 the next morning tied a record low for the date.


A cold wave across the eastern and central U.S. led to many cities recording record low temperatures for this day. Among them was Hartford, CT where the low of 31° was the latest in the season below freezing temperatures have been recorded. This cold wave began two days earlier with 54 record daily lows set, followed by another 96 on the 19th.

A significant late-season snow event occurred in the Sierra Nevada lasting through the next day. The storm brought 24 inches of snow to Volcanic Knob, CA, 21 inches at Pascoes, CA and 20 inches at Huntington Lake, CA. On the same day, an F1 tornado demolished a small farm structure and peeled roofs off other structures and downed trees and fences near Madera. North of Madera, hail as large as 1.75 inches in diameter fell damaging fruit and vegetable crops.


A devastating tornado tore through Moore, OK killing 24 people and injuring over 370 others. Seven children were killed at Briarwood Elementary School after the school suffered a direct hit. At one point, the tornado reached 2.6 miles wide making it the largest tornado ever measured. It was originally rated an EF-3 until a mobile Doppler radar until measure winds close to 300 mph. This caused the National Weather Service to upgrade the tornado to an EF-5. However, at the end of August the National Weather Service re-assessed their findings and put the tornado back to an EF-3 rating citing the Enhanced Fujita rating system uses damage to estimate the intensity and they only found damage equivalent to an EF-3.


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

Report this ad