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Weather History: May 23: Record temps, storms, tornadoes, flooding, wind & snow

Meteorological events that happened on May 23rd:


Massachusetts lawyer James Otis often remarked to friends that when it was his time to die he hoped it would be by a bolt of lightning. Today he got his wish when he was leaning against a doorway in his home and lightning struck the chimney and traveled through the frame of the house, killing Mr. Otis.


Hailstones as large as 11 inches in diameter and weighing a half pound reportedly pounded parts of New Hampshire.


A late May snowfall blanketed eastern Iowa with 4 to 6 inches of snow reported around the town of Washington.


A heat wave gripped parts of the Midwest. Rockford, IL hit 95° and rose to 93° the next day; both record highs. There were 15 days during the month where high temperatures climbed to 80 degrees and above.


Record flooding was in progress along the Illinois River. Peoria, IL reported a crest of 28.8 feet on this date, marking the highest crest on record. Downstream, record crests occurred at Havana on the 25th, at 27.2 feet, and at Beardstown on the 26th, at 29.7 feet.


The temperature at Hollis, OK soared from a morning low of 70° to an afternoon high of 110° to establish a state record for the month of May.


One of the costliest hail storms in Oklahoma City, OK history pummeled the city on this date. Hail the size of baseballs fell over much of the city, resulting in more than 40,000 insurance claims over the 90,000 square mile path of the storm. The final cost was more than $20 million dollars. The parent thunderstorm also caused flash flooding that left 2 to 4 feet of water in some underpasses, and a lightning strike that started a fire that killed two people.


A cold spring storm moved in to the Plains but not after leaving 5 inches of snow, and 1.12 inches of precipitation, at Laramie, WY.


The temperature in Chatham, New Brunswick Canada soared to 95.5°, setting a record high. It will also be the highest temperature measured anywhere in Canada that May.


Strong thunderstorms produced wind gusts to 65 mph at Shreveport LA and golf ball size hail at Marfa, TX. Hobart, OK, received 3.55 inches of rain in the morning, and another 4.03 inches of rain that evening. Thunderstorms in Nebraska produced 8.5 inches of rain in two hours north of Potter, and 7.5 inches of rain in 90 minutes north of Minatare. Thunderstorms in Colorado produced five inches of hail at Greeley.


Severe thunderstorms developing along a cold front resulted in 98 reports of large hail and damaging winds in the Northern Plains and Upper Mississippi Valley. Golf ball size hail caused a million dollars damage around Buffalo City, WI. Baseball size hail was reported at Northfield and Randolph, MN, and thunderstorm winds gusted to 95 mph at Dunkerton, IA and 60 mph was common across all of northwest Iowa.

Unseasonably hot weather continued in the south central states. Pueblo, CO, equaled their May record with a high of 98°, and the high of 106° at Midland, TX, marked a record six straight days of 100 degree heat. Colorado Springs, CO set a daily record high with 91°.


A cold front crossing the western U.S. produced snow over parts of Oregon, California, Nevada, Idaho and Utah, with 5 inches reported at Austin NV, and 4 inches at Crater Lake National Park in Oregon. Strong winds behind the cold front sharply reduced visibilities in blowing dust over central California, and two multi-vehicle accidents resulted in one death and 18 injuries. In northern Idaho, a cloud-burst washed tons of topsoil, and rocks as large as footballs, into the valley town of Culdesac.

Stapleton International Airport at Denver, CO reported a microburst wind gust of 52 mph.


Thunderstorms in the Denver, CO area produced large hail up to golf ball size. An estimated 5,000 homes and 8,000 cars received considerable damage. Damage was estimated at $60 million dollars. Hail accumulated to a depth of 6 inches at Aurora.


International Falls, MN picked up late season snow flurries.


The record for the hottest May temperature ever recorded at Wichita Falls, TX occurred on this date and on the following day. The temperature rose to 110° on both days. Other daily record highs included: Roswell, NM: 106°, Abilene, TX: 106°, Del Rio, TX: 105°, Lubbock, TX: 105°, San Angelo, TX: 105°, Amarillo, TX: 102°, Oklahoma City, OK: 100°, Dodge City, KS: 99°, Albuquerque, NM: 97°, Clayton, NM: 96°, Goodland, KS: 96° and Tulsa, OK: 94°.


The temperature hit 116° at Palm Springs, CA. This tied their highest temperature for the month of May with 5/28/1983 & 5/28/2003.


A Pacific storm system brought some much needed snow to the Colorado Mountains and foothills with a mix of rain on the Plains. Snowfall totals included: 13 inches at Coal Creek Canyon, 11 inches near Evergreen and atop Gold Hill, 10 inches near Blackhawk, Conifer and atop Crow Hill, 9 inches near Rollinsville and 8 inches near Genesee and Golden. The former Stapleton International Airport at Denver reported less than an inch. Three temperature records were set. The morning low temperature of 31° was a record low; as was the morning low of 32° the following morning. The high temperature of only 48° equaled the record low maximum.


Dense fog on I-68 in Garrett County, MD was a principal cause in a massive 80 car chain reaction accident that killed two people and sent over 90 people to the hospital. The series of accidents occurred in about a ten minute period at mid-afternoon. The interstate was closed until 11am the next morning, making Memorial Day holiday traffic a nightmare.


Several days of heavy rain, including at least 5 individual thunderstorm complexes, tracked across northeast Iowa and southwest Wisconsin from the 21st through this date. Record river flooding and widespread flash flooding was reported in the region after some areas received 8 to 10 inches of rain. The bulk of the heavy rain fell Friday night and again Saturday night. Record river levels were set on the Volga and Turkey River in northeast Iowa. The crest reading for the Turkey River at Garber, IA topped out at 33.14 feet.


A strong late season cold low pressure system brought significant weather changes to the southern Great Basin and Mojave Desert across the southwestern U.S.. Earlier in the week Las Vegas, NV set a record high temperature of 108° falling just one degree shy of the all-time May record. Four days later, on this date, the high temperature only reached 67° which set a daily record for the coolest high temperature. Also the day before, Las Vegas set its all-time lowest May altimeter reading of 29.27 inHg. Showers and thunderstorms developed around the region with several locations reporting small hail. Mount Charleston received around 3 inches of snowfall down to the 7,500 foot level.

A thunderstorm occurred at the Billings airport in Montana for the first time in 2008. This was the latest occurrence of a first thunderstorm at Billings since records began in 1939.


An unusual late spring snowfall covered Kanas Lake and the surrounding grassland and mountains in China's northwestern Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.


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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