WX History: May 31st

1830: Shelbyville, Tennessee was turned into “a heap of ruins” as a tornado moved east through the center of the town. This tornado destroyed 15 homes and 38 businesses along with churches and other public buildings. Losses were estimated to be as high as $100,000. A book was said to be carried seven miles away.

1889: The Johnstown, Pennsylvania disaster occurred, the worst flood tragedy in U.S. history. Heavy rains collapsed the South Fork Dam sending a thirty-foot wall of water rushing down the already flooded Conemaugh Valley. The wall of water, traveling as fast as twenty-two feet per second, swept away all structures, objects, and people. 2100 persons perished in the flood.

Source: History.com

1985: 4 tornadoes tracked across Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, and Ontario. Eight tornadoes were rated as F4s, and one was rated as F5. The Niles, Ohio to Wheatland, PA is Pennsylvania’s only F5 tornado.

May 31, 1985 Tornado Outbreak
Deadly, F5 tornado moving through Niles, Ohio. The photo was taken by Mike Zahurak.

Source: May 31, 1985: A tornado outbreak out of place – USTornadoes.com.

2013: The 2nd of the top 10 weather events for 2013 was EL Reno, Oklahoma tornado of May 31, 2013. Part of the multiday storm outbreak caused $2 billion in damage. The EF3 that traveled through the western suburbs of Oklahoma City was the largest tornado ever observed with a width of 2.6 miles. It took eight lives including four tornado chasers.

May 31, 2013 El Reno Tornado

Source: NWS Office in Norman, Oklahoma.

WX History: May 30th

1879: A major outbreak of severe weather occurred in Kansas and western Missouri. In Kansas, tornadoes killed eighteen people at Delphos and thirty persons at Irving. Two tornadoes struck the town of Irving within a few minutes time virtually wiping the small Kansas community off the map. The second tornado was perhaps two miles wide and exhibited multiple vortices.

*Additional research about this event. Many believe this tornado was the inspiration for the Wizard of Oz. This is likely incorrect.

1927: The Kentucky River peaks during a massive flood that killed 89 people and left thousands homeless. Torrential rains caused this unprecedented flood.

Source: History.com

1948

1988: Memorial Day heralded heavy snow in some of the mountains and higher passes of Wyoming, closing roads in Yellowstone Park. McDonald Pass, Montana was blanketed with eight inches of snow, while the temperature at Miles City, Montana soared to 94 degrees.

1998: An F4 tornado moved through southeast South Dakota, killing six people and injuring another 150. The tornado crossed into McCook County at approximately 7:38 pm, CST and moved through downtown Spencer at about 7:39 pm, CST. The total cost of damage was more than $18 million with an additional half million in crop damage.

Source: NWS Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

2004

2012

2013

WX History: May 29th

1947: An unprecedented late-spring snowstorm blasts portions of the Midwest from eastern Wyoming to eastern Upper Michigan. The heavy snow caused severe damage to power and telephone lines and the already-leafed-out vegetation.

May 29, 1947 Snow

Source: NWS Office in La Crosse, Wisconsin.

1982: Two major tornadoes ripped through southern Illinois. The most severe was an F4 that touched down northeast of Carbondale, Illinois then moved to Marion. The twister had multiple vortices within the main funnel. Extensive damage occurred at the Marion Airport. A total of 10 people were killed, and 181 were injured. 648 homes and 200 cars were damaged or destroyed, with total damages around $100 million dollars.

May 29 Tornado in Marion

Source: NWS Office in Paducah, Kentucky.

2012

2017

WX History: May 28th

1880: An estimated F4 tornado hit Savoy, Texas. The storm killed 14 people, and 60 others were injured. It leveled the entire business and northeast residential sections. The tornado was described as “a funnel blazing with balls of fire.” 

1973: An F3 tornado moved east and struck the northern portion of Athens, Georgia. Destruction was massive near Athens, with losses estimated at ten million dollars. Damage from the storm included 545 homes and 17 businesses. Hundreds of large trees more than 100 years old were destroyed.

1982

1998

2015: Some parts of Oklahoma have seen more than a foot of rain during the month of May 2015. Storms killed at least 17 people in Texas and Oklahoma, and more than a dozen are still missing. State climatologist Gary McManus from the Oklahoma Climatological Survey calculated the May rainfall total averaged over all Sooner State reporting stations through midday May 29 – 14.18 inches – was easily outpacing the previous record wet month, set in October 1941 (10.75 inches).

May 28, 2015 Oklahoma precipitation 2
The image above contains a radar-derived precipitation amount over the last 30 days, ending on May 27th, 2015.

WX History: May 27th

1771: In Virginia, a wall of water came roaring down the James River Valley following ten to twelve days of intense rain. As water swept through Richmond, buildings, boats, animals, and vegetation were lost. About one hundred fifty people were killed as the River reached a flood stage of forty-five feet above normal. A monument to the flood was inscribed by Ryland Randolph, of Curles, in 1771-72: ” … all the great rivers of this country were swept by inundations never before experienced which changed the face of nature and left traces of violence that will remain for ages.”

Source: The Flood of 1771 – Historical Marker Database.

1896: A massive tornado struck Saint Louis, Missouri killing 255 people and caused thirteen million dollars damage. The tornado path was short but cut across a densely populated area. It touched down six miles west of Eads Bridge in Saint Louis and widened to a mile as it crossed into East Saint Louis. The tornado was the most destructive of record in the U.S. at that time. It pierced a five-eighths inch thick iron sheet with a two by four-inch pine plank. A brilliant display of lightning accompanied the storm.

May 27, 1890 St. Louis TornadoSources: National Centers for Environmental Information and the St. Louis Public Library.

1973

1997: An F5 tornado killed 27 people in Jarrell, Texas. Although tornado warnings were issued 30 minutes in advance and local sirens were sounded, there were few places to go for safety. Most homes were on slabs, with no basements. Houses were swept clean off their foundations, with little debris left behind. Total damage was $20 million dollars. The same thunderstorm complex produced a wind gust to 122 mph at Kelly Air Force Base in San Antonio.

Source: TornadoTalk.com and the History.com

2017

2017

WX History: May 26th

1771: Thomas Jefferson recorded the greatest flood ever known in Virginia. The great Virginia flood occurred as torrential rains in the mountains brought all rivers in the state to record high levels.

Source: Jefferson’s Garden Book.

1917: A major tornadic thunderstorm took a 293-mile track across parts of central Illinois and Indiana. Once believed to be a single tornado, the later study indicated it was likely at least eight separate tornadoes. The first touchdown was about 50 miles south-southeast of Quincy, Illinois. The tornadic storm tracked due east, before beginning a northeast curve near Charleston; separate tornadic storms then curved southeast from Charleston. The towns of Mattoon and Charleston bore the brunt of the tornado. Damage from this severe tornado in Mattoon was about 2.5 blocks wide and 2.5 miles long, with over 700 houses destroyed, while the Charleston portion was 600 yards wide and 1.5 miles long, with 220 homes damaged. Damage in the two towns amounted to about $2 million dollars 1917 dollars. Dozens of farms were hit along the path, and at least three farm homes were swept away between Manhattan and Monee. Another estimated F4 tornado touched down 6 miles south of Crown Point and devastated a dozen farms. A total of 7 people died, and 120 were injured. 53 people were killed in Mattoon, and 38 died in Charleston. Overall, 101 people in Illinois were killed during the tornado outbreak, with 638 injured.

Source(s): NWS Office in Lincoln, Illinois.  Eastern Illinois University

2003: A BMI Airbus bound for Cyprus from Manchester, England encountered a violent thunderstorm over Germany. The plane bounced and twisted violently as it ran into severe turbulence with huge hailstones pounding the exterior. A football-sized hole was punched in the aircraft’s exterior. None of the 213 passengers or eight crew members has been severely hurt.

May 26, 2003 Airplane

Source: AERO News Network.

2009: Northeast of Anchorage, Alaska, two hikers climbed a ridge to see a developing storm better. Lightning knocked the couple unconscious. Regaining consciousness, they called emergency services as the woman was unable to walk. The man’s shoes looked as though they had melted.

May 26, 2009 Anchorage lightning

Source: May 2009 Storm Data.

WX History: May 25th

1880: An estimated F2 tornado moved northeast through the town of Mitchell, in South Dakota. Two men were killed when they ran out the back door of a saloon to reach the cellar entrance. The caulk stone saloon was destroyed along with two homes and several businesses. This tornado was one of the first significant tornadoes on record for the state of South Dakota.

1896: An estimated F5 tornado hit Oakwood, Ortonville, and Thomas, Michigan. Forty-seven people were killed, and 100 were injured. Trees were debarked “even to the twigs, as though done by the careful hand of an experienced artisan.” Parts of houses were found up to 12 miles away.

Oakwood
This photo shows the damage done by the “Cyclone of 1896” on Coats Road, east of the Village of Oakwood. Oakwood was destroyed in the cyclone and never rebuilt. The photos are courtesy of the Northeast Oakland Historical Society.

Source: Historic outbreak sequences: Five major tornado events during the second half of May 1896.  –  USTornadoes.com

1955: An estimated F5 tornado moved north and NNW through the heart of Blackwell, Oklahoma. About 400 homes were destroyed, and many were leveled and swept away. About 500 other homes were damaged. The tornado dissipated just over the Kansas border, as the Udall, Kansas tornado was forming to the east. The Blackwell tornado was accompanied by unusual electrical activity, with up to 25 discharges per second recorded on sferics equipment. The funnel was said to glow and have “arcs” of glowing light. The Udall, Kansas tornado was estimated to be an F5 as well. Over half of the population of Udall was killed or injured as the tornado completely devastated a large portion of town. Seventy-five people were killed, and many of the 270 injuries were serious.

 

May 25, 1955 Blackwell, Oklahoma Tornado Damage
The image above is Blackwell, Oklahoma following the tornado. The image is courtesy of the National Archives Catalog.

 

 

May 25, 1955 Udall Kansas Tornado
The image above is Udall, Kansas following the tornado.

 

Source: The Wichita Eagle.

2008: A rare, large and destructive EF5 tornado created a 43-mile long path across Butler and Black Hawk counties in Iowa. This tornado killed eight people, injured dozens and caused several millions of dollars in damage. The tornado was nearly three-quarters of a mile wide as it moved through the southern end of Parkersburg. A third of the town was affected by devastating damage with nearly 200 homes destroyed. This storm produced the first EF5 tornado in Iowa since 6/13/1976 and only the third EF5 tornado to occur in the United States in the past ten years. 

 

May 25, 2008 Parkerburg Tornado
The photograph of the tornado above is courtesy of Chief Deputy Tim Wolthoff from Grundy County.

 

Source: NWS Office in Des Moines, Iowa.

WX History: May 24th

1896: An estimated F4 tornado passed ten miles north of Des Moines, Iowa during the late evening. As many as seven members of one family, the at the north edge of Valeria, Iowa, died as they ran to the storm cellar. Five others died in a nearby home. A steel railroad rail was reportedly driven 15 feet into the ground. The death toll was at least 21.

1973: An F4 tornado tore through the small town of Union City, Oklahoma, killing two and injuring four others. This tornado was the first storm to be studied in detail by the National Severe Storms Laboratory Doppler Radar Unit at Norman, OK and an armada of researchers in the field. Research of the radar data from the storm would lead to the discovery of a “TVS,” or Tornado Vortex Signature. The presence of a TVS on Doppler radar data is a very strong indication of tornadic potential in a severe thunderstorm.

May 24, 1973 Union City Tornado
The first tornado captured by the NSSL Doppler radar and NSSL chase personnel.

Source: Union City Tornado Makes History – NSSL

2002: The last measurable snow of the season fell in Marquette, Michigan. This snowfall brought the city’s seasonal snowfall to 319.8 inches, by far the city’s snowiest winter ever.

2017

2017

WX History: May 23rd

1968: One of the costliest hailstorms in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 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.

1960: A massive earthquake in Chile the previous day produced a tsunami that killed 61 people in Hilo, Hawaii. An additional 180 people died on the islands of Honshu and Hokkaido in Japan. 

Source: History.com

1997: David McWilliams Ludlum was born 1910 in East Orange, NJ – He is responsible for researching and publishing much of the early history of weather at the beginning of America. David died May 23, 1997, in Princeton, New Jersey. He was an American historian, meteorologist, entrepreneur, and author. 

2010: A rare tropical cyclone dubbed Bandu brings high winds and heavy rains to Somalia. The storm then moved into the Gulf of Aden where it quickly weakens and dissipates on the 23rd as it passes between Yemen and Somalia.

May 23, 2010 Cyclone Bandu
The satellite image above is Cyclone Bandu on May 21st, 2010. The image is courtesy of the US Navy.

2017

 

WX History: May 22nd

1876: Denver, Colorado was drenched with 6.50 inches of rain in 24 hours, an all-time record for that location.

1986: A devastating hailstorm hit the Sichuan Province of China. Reports indicate that up to 100 people were killed, 35,000 homes destroyed and entire crops devastated.

2011: On this day, one of the most devastating tornadoes in the nation’s history directly killed 158 people and injured over 1,000 in Joplin, Missouri. The Joplin EF5 tornado was the first single tornado to result in over 100 fatalities since the June 8, 1953, Flint, Michigan tornado.

 

May 22, 2011 Joplin Radar
Above is the radar shortly after the tornado tore through Joplin. Note the debris ball on the radar reflectivity.