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Weather History: May 5: Record temps, storms, tornadoes, hail, wind & snow

Listed are Meteorological events that happened on May 5th:

Ever wonder how far a lightning discharge can travel? If the lightning is a cloud-to-ground bolt, then the travel distance is limited by the distance from the inside of the cloud to the ground, which is usually less than 10 miles, but a distance of up to 20 miles is not unheard of. Cloud-to-cloud or intracloud discharges my reach for 100 miles or more in rare cases.

This is the average day of the first 100 degree reading at Needles, CA.


A group of tornadoes in Virginia killed three people. The twisters carved a path from near Victoria to south of Petersburg to just south of the James River. The damage path was reportedly one mile wide in places.


The same storm which a day earlier produced eight inches of snow in the Texas panhandle produced over a foot of snow at Denver, CO, their heaviest snow on record for the month of May. 12 inches fell on this date and the greatest 24 hour snowfall for May. Along with the record snow came record low temperatures of 27° on this date and 23° on the 6th.


The temperature at College Park, VA soared from 43° to 93° to begin an exceptional heat wave.


An F4 tornado cut a 35 mile path from near Brent into Shelby County, Alabama. The town of Helena, AL was especially hard hit, as 14 people died.


19 tornadoes touched down leaving more than 30 people dead in eastern Oklahoma. Hardest hit was the town of Wilburton, where 13 people were killed, and over 800 homes and buildings were either damaged or destroyed.


Heavy rains, snow and severe weather struck the Black Hills area in South Dakota. Heavy rains totaled 2 to 5 inches in the northern Black Hills flooding many streams. Higher elevations such as the Lead area received over a foot of snow. While heavy rains and snow pounded the Black Hills the surrounding plains had to contend with severe weather. Rapid City narrowly missed being struck by a tornado as the storm's damage path began about two miles east of Rapid City. The Rapid City airport did report a gust of 53 mph with Ellsworth Air Force Base receiving a gust to 70 mph. The tornado caused severe damage to farm buildings in the Tilford area.

0.43 inches of precipitation fell at Billings, MT, the first of 5 straight days with more than 0.20 inches. This was only the second such occurrence since 1934 (September 1949).


The grade school and high school at Pleasant Hill, MO were struck by large F3 tornado. Thanks to excellent warnings and preparedness drills, only minor injuries occurred. Two people were killed, one in a trailer and one in a house.


A line of severe thunderstorms moved through Dade County in south Florida causing extensive tree and power line damage. Several trees fell onto parked cars. This was associated with the same frontal system that moved through northern and central Florida the day before producing many tornadoes, leaving three dead, over 100 injured, and more than $8 million dollars in damage. The hardest-hit areas in Dade County were Coconut Grove, Coral Gables, Kendall and South Miami. More than 75 power lines were broken by falling tree limbs and flying debris. Wind gusts to 56 mph were recorded at the National Hurricane Center in Coral Gables. No injuries were reported.

Heavy wet snow of around 24 inches collapsed an office and hotel in Boulder, CO. Many cars were abandoned across the city. Denver received 14 inches with Evergreen and Golden receiving a foot. Snowfall totaled 12.4 inches at Stapleton Airport in Denver, CO and 7.2 inches at Cheyenne, WY.


Mobile, AL had its worst flash flooding ever as thunderstorms unloaded 8 to 16 inches of rain over the metro area in a couple of hours. Damage totaled $36 million dollars.


Severe flash flooding hit parts of southwest Oklahoma and the western parts of North Texas. The hardest hit area was around Lawton, where 4 to 5 inches of rain fell in just 90 minutes. The weight of the heavy rain caused the roof of a shopping mall to collapse, killing one person and injuring two others. Flooding also occurred in north Texas, where several roads in Wichita, Clay, and Archer Counties were closed by high water that spilled over the banks of area creeks.


Fresno, CA received 0.01 inch of rain. This was the latest measurable precipitation received for the water season pushing the total to 23.57 inches, the wettest water season on record.


Strong pressure gradient winds in excess of 60 mph occurred over west central Minnesota. City officials in Browns Valley estimated a quarter of the city suffered damage. The roof of a grandstand was blown off and landed a quarter block away. 75 homes and 6 businesses sustained roof damage. In nearby Dumont, wind ripped a large grain bin off its foundation and tore open the top of another.

Sacramento, CA hit 100°, breaking the previous record for this day of 92° which was set in 1944. This is the earliest in the season Sacramento has hit the 100 degree mark.


Unseasonably hot weather prevailed in the western U.S. A dozen cities in California reported record high temperatures for the date. Afternoon highs of 101° at Redding, 100° at Sacramento, 98° at San Jose and 93° at San Francisco were the warmest on record for so early in the season. The high of 94° at Medford, OR was also the warmest on record for so early in the season. Sacramento, CA established daily record highs on nine of eleven days between the 4th and the 14th.


Thunderstorms swept across Georgia and the Carolinas during the late afternoon and evening hours spawning 17 tornadoes. A tornado at Toccoa, GA injured 15 people, and a tornado at Chesnee, SC killed two people and injured 35 others. Five tornadoes in North Carolina accounted for five deaths, 88 injuries, and $60 million dollars damage. Thunderstorms also produced baseball size hail at Lake Murray, SC, and wind gusts to 78 mph at Brooklyn, MD.


A strong Pacific cold front moving rapidly inland caused weather conditions at the east end of the Strait of Juan de Fuca in Washington State to quickly change from sunny and calm to westerly winds of 60 mph and 10 foot waves. Three recreational fishing boats capsized in heavy seas off Port Angeles resulting in five deaths.

In California, temperatures soared above 90° across much of the state. The high of 101° in downtown Los Angeles was eight degrees hotter than their previous record for the date. Bakersfield, CA hit 100° and Fresno topped out at 99° to set daily high temperature records.


A four-day sandstorm raged across Mongolia and Northwestern China with hurricane-force winds. Reports of 47 deaths came from Sansu Province in China. As many as 300,000 head of livestock died in Inner Mongolia.


A heavier precipitation supercell thunderstorm rapidly developed just ahead of a fast moving bow echo squall line and blasted Tarrant County, Texas. Large hail up to 5 inches in diameter, driven by 80 mph winds, caused a tremendous amount of damage. 10,000 people were caught out in the open at Mayfest in downtown Forth Worth, resulting in 109 injuries from the large hail. Torrential rains of up to 3 inches in 30 minutes and 5 inches in one hour across Dallas caused unprecedented flash flooding, resulting in 21 deaths and 510 injuries. Total damage in Forth Worth alone was estimated at $2 billion dollars, making this the costliest thunderstorm event in U.S. history. This was the third severe hailstorm to strike the area in only a little over a month.


The Japanese Meteorological Agency named the first typhoon of the season Damrey, using a new multi-national naming list that not only included people's name, but names of animals, astrological signs, fish and even an airport. Damrey is Cambodian for elephant.


On a scary note, a convoy of experienced storm chasers, including Matt Sellers and Shane Adams, had a near-miss with a tornado which touched down nearly on top of them near Lakeview, TX as they were following the storm that had earlier struck the town of Happy. No chasers were injured during the encounter, but several had damage to their vehicles. In addition, the University of Massachusetts 10-centimeter Mobile Doppler Radar was entangled in downed power lines near Lakeview.

In the 24 hours up to 1200z the rainfall equivalent of close to a half inch of rain and snow fell at Ulan Bator, Mongolia equaling their normal monthly precipitation.


A severe thunderstorm struck the Brahmanbaria District of eastern Bangladesh claiming at least 22 lives. Winds gusted as high as 75 mph accompanied by hail and heavy rain, flattened hundreds of mud houses.


A large upper low pressure area over the southwest United States spun off a strong upper level trough into the northern plains. This trough lifting over the region along with a north to south frontal boundary, powerful low level winds, and abundant gulf moisture resulted in training thunderstorms across parts of central and northeast South Dakota. The training thunderstorms produced torrential rains from 3 to over 10 inches resulting in widespread flash flooding across Brown, Buffalo, Hand, Spink, Clark, Day, Marshall, and Roberts Counties. The counties of Brown, Buffalo, Clark, Day, Marshall, and Spink were declared disaster areas by President Bush. The Governor also declared a state of emergency for the flooded counties. Dozens of cities were affected by the flooding with several hundred homes, businesses, and countless roads affected and damaged or destroyed by the flooding. Aberdeen received the most extensive damage, especially the north side of Aberdeen. 75% percent of the homes in Aberdeen received some water in their basements. Basement water levels ranged from a few inches to very deep water all the way up to the first floor of homes. Many homes had basement walls collapse. The overwhelming load on the drainage systems caused sewage to back up into many homes across the region. Also, many vehicles stalled on the roads with many others damaged by the flooding. Power outages also occurred across the area. Many families were displaced from their homes with many living in emergency shelters. Countless homes were condemned across the region with many considered unlivable. Thousands of acres of crops were also flooded and damaged with many seeds and large quantities of fertilizer washed away. Rainfall amounts from this historic event included, 3.65 inches in Miller, 3.82 inches in Britton, 4 inches in Eden, 4.47 inches in Andover, 4.90 inches in Webster, 5.68 inches west of Britton, 5.7 inches in Garden City, and 5.82 inches in Conde. Locations with 6 or more inches of rain included, 6 inches in Langford, 6.33 inches in Gann Valley, 6.72 inches in Clark, 7.41 inches in Ashton, 7.49 inches in Stratford, 7.55 inches near Mellette, 7.97 inches in Aberdeen, 8.02 inches in Redfield, 8.73 inches in Columbia, and 8.74 inches in Groton. The 8.74 inches of rainfall in Groton set a new 24 hour state rainfall record. Adding in the rainfall for the previous day, Aberdeen received a total of 9.00 inches; Columbia received a total of 10.19 inches; Groton received an astonishing two day total rainfall of 10.74 inches.


Fairbanks, AK experienced their second earliest thunderstorm on record, lasting about 20 minutes. The earliest was 5/3/1984.

Around 2 inches of snow fell in downtown Calgary, Alberta Canada with the airport reporting up to 1.2 inches. Nearby communities saw even more with Airdrie and Okotoks reporting 4 inches. At a higher elevation, Cypress Hills Provincial Park receives as much as 8 inches.


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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