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News and Information

Minnesota WeatherTalk Newsletter for Friday, May 6, 2011

To: MPR Morning Edition Crew
From: Mark Seeley, University of Minnesota Extension
Dept of Soil, Water, and Climate

Subject: Minnesota WeatherTalk Newsletter for Friday, May 6, 2011


-Cold, snowy start to May
-Weekly Weather Potpourri
-MPR listener question
-Almanac for May 6th
-Past weather features
-pitchforks and hammer handles

Topic: Cold, snowy start to May for some

Several observers reported a very cold start to May. May 1st was the coldest in history for some. The National Weather Service put out a notice that Grand Forks tied their record for coldest daytime temperature on May 1st with a reading of only 34 degrees F. Similarly, Fosston, Thief River Falls, and Wadena reported record maximum values of just 30 degrees F, while McIntosh, MN reported a high of only 26 degrees F. St Cloud reported a record cold maximum temperature value on May 1st of 39 degrees F, while Eau Claire reported a record cold maximum temperature on May 2nd of just 39 degrees F as well. Embarrass reported overnight lows of just 18 degrees F on both May 3rd and May 4th. All of these readings rival those of the previous coldest start to May back in 1909.

Many observers also reported snowfall on the first two days of May, albeit just a trace. Nevertheless some communities received measurable amounts. Warren ( Marshall County) reported 1.3 inches, International Falls 0.4 inches, Twin Valley 0.6 inches, Moorhead 0.7 inches, Brainerd 0.2 inches, and Itasca State Park 0.2 inches. Perhaps these are the last snowfall reports of the spring.

Weekly Weather Potpourri:

NOAA has a comprehensive report out about the historic and tragic tornado outbreak of April 25-26 last week. Preliminary estimates suggest 305 tornadoes, and the National Weather Service issued warnings on over 90 percent of them with an average lead time of 24 minutes. For more statistics and discussion of this outbreak you can go to their web site at...

The U.S. Drought Monitor shows that drought across Texas is worsening. In some areas it is the worst drought in 44 years. Their state climatologist reports that on a statewide basis March and April precipitation in 2011 was the driest of record, and April alone was the 5th driest in history. You can read more about this and associated consequences at...

Elsewhere the Army Corps of Engineers was blasting levees this week to try to safe Cairo, Illinois and other areas from historic flooding on Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. As a result up to 200 square miles of Missouri farmland may be lost to production for the 2011 growing season. You can read more about this matter at...

The National Weather Service-Louisville, KY Office has put together a comprehensive climatology for the 137 years of the Kentucky Derby horse race. Did you know the Derby race was run in 94 degrees F heat back in 1959? Tomy Lee won that race and must have needed a big drink of water. You can read more at...

The Met Office in the United Kingdom announced this week that based on preliminary data April of 2011 was the warmest in history. It was also the 11th driest April in the U.K. climate history. Temperatures averaged 3 to 5 degrees C above average for the month. Tabular data and further narrative can be found at...

MPR listener question: We have heard many stories about farmers coping with a later than normal planting season. What are some other measures of spring showing?

Answer: Well, first of all our most recent memories from last year are of one of the earliest springs in Minnesota history. Earliest ever ice-out dates on many lakes, as well as earliest agricultural planting season in history were major features of the spring in 2010. This year is quite a contrast, but not terribly far off average. For example,

Leech Lake (Cass County) was ice-free on April 6, 2010, this year it finally was ice-free on May 1st (average date is April 27)
Lake Bemidji (Beltrami County) was ice free on April 6, 2010, this year it was ice-free on April 28th (average date is April 26)
You can find other lake ice-out information for the current year and historical dates by going to

Among other phenological observations: Rhubarb is about a week late this year, and many lilac bushes, as well as aspen and maple trees are budding and leafing out up to a week later in many areas. By this time last year many lawns had already been mowed once. Soil temperatures are only recently suitable for spring planting of corn (above 50 degrees F), running about 1 to 2 weeks behind on the calendar.

Almanac for May 6th:

The average MSP high temperature for this date is 65 degrees F (plus or minus 12 degrees standard deviation), while the average low is 44 degrees F (plus or minus 8 degrees standard deviation).

MSP Local Records for May 6th:

MSP weather records for this date include: highest daily maximum temperature of 89 degrees F in 1896 and 1934; lowest daily maximum temperature of 35 degrees F in 1931; lowest daily minimum temperature of 25 degrees F in 1989; highest daily minimum temperature of 67 degrees F in 1896; record precipitation of 1.51 inches in 1939; record snowfall of 0.2 inches in 1947.

Average dew point for May 6th is 37 degrees F, with a maximum of 66 degrees F in 1965 and a minimum of 14 degrees F in 1989.

All-time state records for May 6th:

Scanning the state climatic data base: the all-time high for this date is 98 degrees F at Grand Meadow (Mower County) in 1934; the all-time low is 12 degrees F at Alborn (St Louis County) in 1944. The all-time record precipitation amount for this date is 3.48 inches at Minneota (Lyon County) in 1983. The state record daily snowfall for this date is 10.0 inches at Roseau (Roseau County) in 1938.

Past Weather Features:

Heat, drought, and dust storms visiting the state in May of 1934. On May 6th at least 12 Minnesota cities reported a high of 90 degrees F or greater. At Fairmont it was the start of a 4-day heat wave, with each day reaching above 90 degrees F. The Fairmont observer recorded 14 days of 90 degrees F or warmer that may, topped by 108 degrees F on the 31st.

The first week of May in 1938 brought significant snowfalls to many Minnesota communities. Windom reported 12 inches, while far to the north Roseau reported 10 inches. Elsewhere Worthington and Winnebago received 6 inches, Fosston 9 inches, and Park Rapids 8 inches. It was the wettest May in state history as well, with a statewide average precipitation of nearly 6.25 inches. The observer at St Cloud reported 24 rainy days during the month.

On May 5, 1976 the observer in Milan, MN reported rainfall of 0.05 inches. Little did he know that was going to be the biggest rainfall of the month. Indeed, May of 1976 was one of the driest in state history. Many western Minnesota communities including Tyler, Milan, and Benson reported less than a quarter of an inch of rainfall for the month.

Word of the Week: pitchforks and hammer handles

Once upon a time in an older American culture these words were used to describe a very heavy rain, a dangerous rain where you would not want to be caught outside. "It's raining pitchforks and hammer handles" would certainly evoke a cautious attitude about going outside. Indeed few of us ever see it rain that hard but may be once or twice in a lifetime.


An unsettled period going into the weekend and early next week with frequent chances for precipitation and temperatures near seasonal normals, perhaps a bit warmer. A drier period is in store towards the end of next week by Thursday and Friday.

Further Information:

For older versions of the "Minnesota WeatherTalk" newsletter go to

For access to other information resources go to

NOTE: News releases were current as of the date of issue. If you have a question on older releases, use the news release search (upper left-hand column of the News main page) or the main Extension search (upper right of this page) to locate more recent information.


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