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.
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.
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.”
1896: A massive tornado struck Saint Louis, Missouri killing 255 people and caused thirteen million dollars in 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.
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.
1894: A record late snow of two to eight inches whitened parts of central and eastern Kentucky. Lexington received six inches of snow, and Springfield Kentucky received 5 inches.
1916: In three consecutive years, a tornado passed near or through the town of Codell, Kansas. The tornado on this day was an estimated F2. The estimated F3 tornado in 1917 moved two miles west of town. Finally, an estimated F4 tornado moved through Codell on May 20th, 1918. This tornado killed 9 and injured at least 65 others.
1957: A tornado touched down to the southwest of Kansas City and traveled a distance of seventy-one miles cutting a swath of near destruction through the southeastern suburbs of Ruskin Heights and Hickman Mills. The tornado claimed the lives of forty-five persons and left hundreds homeless. It was the worst weather disaster on record for Kansas City. About all that remained of one house were a small table and a fishbowl atop, with the fish still swimming about inside the bowl. A canceled check from Hickman Hills was found in Ottumwa, Iowa, 165 miles away. Pilots reported debris at an altitude of 30,000 feet.
1983: A bow echo passed through the Houston area during the early morning hours on May 20th. The storm system caused 11 fatalities. The bow echo produced four downburst swaths and eight tornadoes.
2013: Several supercell thunderstorms developed during the early afternoon of May 20th along with a dry line in central Oklahoma. One of these storms developed near Chickasha and rapidly intensified, producing a tornado which touched down at 2:56 PM CDT on the west side of Newcastle. The tornado became violent within minutes, then tracked east-northeastward across the city of Moore and parts of south Oklahoma City for about 40 minutes before finally dissipating near Lake Stanley Draper. The tornado caused catastrophic damage in these areas and was given a maximum rating of EF-5. The tornado claimed 24 lives, injured scores of people, and caused billions of dollars in damage.
1875: The London Times published the first daily newspaper weather map. The first American newspaper weather map would be issued on 5/12/1876 in the New York Herald. Weather maps would first appear on a regular basis beginning on 5/9/1879 in the New York Daily Graphic.
1960: A satellite designed by the Radio Corporation of America (RCA) launched to become the nation’s first weather satellite. That satellite, the Television InfraRed Observational Satellite, or TIROS 1, operated for only 78 days but demonstrated the feasibility of monitoring Earth’s cloud cover and weather patterns from space. This NASA program provided the first accurate weather forecasts based on data gathered from space.
1970: A snowstorm produced 5 to 12 inches of snow over northern Illinois on April 1 through the 2nd. The storm closed the O’Hare airport.
1972: Hurricane Agnes was one of the largest June hurricanes on record. The system strengthened into a tropical storm during the night of the 15th and a hurricane on the 18th as it moved northward in the Gulf of Mexico.