May Storm Dumps 18 Inches of Snow: How Rare Are May Snowstorms? [PHOTO & VIDEO]
A rare May snowstorm dumped 18 inches of snow across the Plains and Midwest yesterday, covering newly bloomed flowers with a layer of white.
"The northernmost areas have seen snow in May before, but not of this magnitude," said Jim Keeney, a National Weather Service meteorologist.
The surprising 18 inches of snow likely broke spring records in Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin, and knocked out power in those states, with as many as 60,000 people reportedly losing power in Minnesota and Wisconsin. The 30-degree temperature resulted in wet snow which downed trees and closed roads.
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Snow was even seen as far south as Tulsa, Okla., where the average early May temperature is 76 degrees. The weather service says that this is the latest in the year that snow has ever fallen there.
Several days before the storm, in Denver, Colo., the weather was a balmy 80 degrees. On Thursday, the city tied its record low of 19 degrees.
"This was a tough system to judge in that there was such a tight gradient between the rain, freezing rain, and snow," said Kurt Kotenberg, National Weather Service meteorologist. "Then, this cold front really stalled out over central Iowa and it just kept snowing and snowing. It just didn't really stop in some places."
At least one death resulted from the storm. In western Wisconsin, two semis collided on Interstate 94, killing one driver and landing the other in the hospital.
In Colorado, a May snowstorm is not that unusual, hitting Denver about once every three years. But for a May storm to dump 18 inches on the Plains and Midwest is a fairly rare occurrence. In Minneapolis, for instance there have only been six May snow days since 1875. In Omaha, Neb., it's only snowed four times in May since 1881. In Arkansas, this storm marks the first appearance of snow ever recorded in May.
"It is very difficult to get a major snowstorm in the lower elevations of the U.S. in May," said meteorologist Nick Wiltgen. "Even on May 1 you're only seven weeks away from the summer solstice, and with that comes strong sun and long days adding heat to the atmosphere."
"But if you can get some really cold air to pair up with a storm, there's usually plenty of moisture in the air by May so those rare snowstorms can happen."
While this storm was massive by all measures, yesterday's 18 inches of snow isn't the highest Midwest May snowfall on record. On May 10, 1990, Marquette, Mich., was blanketed with 22.4 Inches of snow.
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