Wildfire, a deadly tornado, record rain and the warmest May top the list of Michigan weather events on this day in history. From the National Weather Service archives here are the events that happened on May 20.
1975 - A tornado injured one person as it destroyed two mobile homes at Byron Center in Kent County.
1977 - The last half of May is unusually warm. Record high temperatures in the upper 80s and lower 90s are set across Lower Michigan from the 16th to the 28th. This helps make it the warmest May on record at Grand Rapids.
1996 - Thunderstorms produce record rainfall across Lower Michigan. Records include Grand Rapids 3.39”, Muskegon 1.47”, Lansing 1.94”, and Flint 1.69”. Lightning within a thunderstorm that went through Richfield Township at 2:53pm caused one injury.
2009 - The Pinery Wildfire started east of L'anse on this day around 3:30pm local time and burned 685 acres before being contained on the 22nd. Human burning of debris and brush in the early afternoon, strong southerly winds gusting as high as 50 mph, and very low relative humidity values of 15-25% caused and sustained the wildfire. The wildfire destroyed a mobile home and damaged the Pinery Ski Lake Cross Country Ski Trails and Pinery Cemetery. The firefighting efforts were led by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Bureau of Indian Affairs, which contained the fire on the 22nd and finished mop up on the 26th. The cost of fighting the fire was estimated at near $125,000. A warm frontal passage pushed record heat and very dry conditions across Upper Michigan. This warm front combined with wind gusts up to 50 mph to spark two large wildfires in the afternoon across Marquette and Baraga Counties. Winds gusting over 50 mph downed a 40 foot pine tree and snapped power lines in Marquette in the afternoon. The Black River Falls Wildfire started southwest of Ishpeming in Marquette County on the afternoon of the 20th. The wildfire was ignited when a jack pine tree branch split off the main stem from strong southerly winds and fell across a power line. The wildfire burned 811 acres, destroyed 21 residences and 12 other structures. The firefighting efforts were led by the Michigan DNR. The wildfire was contained on the 22nd and mop up efforts continued into the 26th. The cost for personnel and equipment to fight the wildfire was estimated at near $100,000. The total damage estimate is unknown at this time but presumed to be in the millions of dollars.
2012 - A cold front moving through the region generated strong to severe thunderstorms over portions of west and central Upper Michigan in the afternoon. Winds estimated at 60 mph knocked over a 24-inch diameter white pine tree six miles south of Witch Lake. 1 inch hail (quarter sized) fell in Ironwood late in the morning and 2 miles northwest of Stanwood in Houghton County and 1 mile east of Calumet in the early afternoon. A lightning strike from thunderstorms caused a house fire in Iron Mountain in the evening. The home sustained $30,000 in damage in numerous areas, but firefighters were able to keep the damage contained to the second floor and attic. The Iron Mountain Police Department, Beacon Ambulance and Wisconsin Electric were also at the scene of the fire to assist. Trees were knocked down across Highway M-95 along the Marquette/Dickinson County line. Very strong winds knocked down small tree limbs and blew patio furniture across the yard 10 miles south southwest of National Mine and several trees were knocked down along County Road 581 4 miles south southwest of National Mine. Lightning and high wind from thunderstorms caused more than 200 customers to lose power in Ishpeming. The observer ten miles east of Ontonagon measured 1.75 inches of total rainfall. A small creek on the residence was reported over its banks. The observer at Rockland measured 2.80 inches of storm total rainfall. There was a report of one inch hail (quarter sized) near Redridge.