...A Record Breaking "Spring" Storm in May...

A historical May snowstorm continues to impact the region providing one of the latest measured snows in recorded history.  This storm system is due to the development of an anomalously strong storm system which has already brought near to below freezing temperatures and record snows to portions of the Northern Plains and Upper Midwest.

7am May 2, 2013 7pm May 2, 2013 7am May 3, 2013

Ahead of this system was one of the more prolonged warm spells of what seems like a rather short and confused Spring season.  Temperatures leading up to the unusual May snows climbed into the upper 70s to lower 80s in many areas.  However, once a strong cold front arrived Wednesday evening, temperatures have struggled to climb above 40 degrees in many locations.  Check out this temperature graph of the daily temperature swings since Sunday April 28th as taken from Kansas City.

5 Days of Temperatures

The most interesting impacts of this system were found with its precipitation and highly unusual snowfall.  As colder air started to move into the region, light rain transitioned to snow over northeastern Kansas and northwestern Missouri gradually spreading eastward during the evening of the 2nd. The radar look below indicate the slow southeastward movement to the precipitation and also indicate how this storm system and it's precipitation pivoted across the region overnight.  Snow totals in many areas ranged from 1" to 4" in the area with a few higher reports in north central Missouri.  For many cities, this Spring storm marked a rare May snowfall not seen for upwards of 106 years.

48 Hour Radar Loop Estimated Snowfall Totals - May 2-3 2013

Snowfall Pictures and Video:

Higginsville, MO Near Kansas City International Windsor, MO Leawood, KS
Kauffman Stadium Milan, MO Vibbard, MO  

Snow at NWS-Kansas City Snowing in Lees Summit, MO

Historical Records:

Locally, this system continues to produce broken records.

May 2nd: The high temperature of 41 degrees in Kansas City not only broke the record lowest high temperature for this date (48 in 1917), but also broke the previous month of May lowest high temperature of 43 degrees back on May 5th, 1944. The snowfall total of 0.5" at the Kansas City International on May 2nd set a new record for the date and was only the 2nd episode of measureable snow ever in May!

May 3rd:  The high temperature of 39 degrees has broken the record lowest high temperature for this date (47 in 1935 &1954), and has AGAIN broken the month of May lowest high temperature of 41 degrees set on May 2nd.  A trace of snow was reported at the Kansas City International airport just after midnight on the 3rd,  which ties previous record for the latest snowfall on record for Kansas City.

May 4th:

When is the last time it snowed this late in the year in recent history? A quick check of historical records indicates that the last time is snowed this late in the year was April 21, 1992.


Kansas City Climatology:

Date:            Average High:            Average Low:         Record Low:           Max Min:

May 2nd             71                                 50                          31 (2005)             48 (1917)

May 3rd              71                                 50                          30 (1976)             47 (1935, 1954)

May 4th              71                                 51                          27 (1907)              45 (1935)


Snow Stats:

Latest measureable snowfall:  1.7” May 3rd 1907 

Latest trace of snow:   May 1st, 1909

Lastest measureable snow on record prior to today: April 21, 1992

Seasonal Snowfall:  31.3”

Climatological Average:  18.8”

Last Year Snowfall:  3.9”


Climatological Temperatures:

Month(s):                                          Avg Temp:                Departure from Normal:

Climo Winter (DJF):                              33.7                                    +2.5

January:                                                  32.8                                    +4.0

February:                                                32.4                                    -1.1

March:                                                    37.8                                     -6.4 (16th coldest on record)

April:                                                       49.8                                     -5.0 (8th coldest on record)


The 1907 Comparison:

While we do not have a ton of information regarding the latest snowfall ever recorded for many cities across the Lower Missouri River Valley, we have been able to locate a few pieces of information on this system.

Here is an excerpt from a publication entitled "Kansas City Weather" by Hugh G. Crowther about the month of May 1907:

"In 1907 the unseasonably cool weather which began in early April continued right through the month of May.  On the 3rd of May, a freak spring storm blanketed the city with nearly two inches of snow.  Temperatures were in the lower 30s throughout the day and that night dipped into the upper 20s.  On the 15th of May, frost was reported in some of the rural areas around Kansas City, and even Memorial day was unseasonably cool with temperatures in the 50s.  The mean temperature for the month of 59 degrees was the coolest of record". 

Some have also asked how much snow other cities in the region received during that late Spring snow storm.  While the data is limited due to the limited amount of stations in 1907, here are a few of the numbers we discovered:

Albany                        5"
Bethany                     4.5"
Kirksville                    4"
Unionville                  4"
Trenton                      4"
Olathe                        4"
Atchison, KS             3"
Maryville, MO             2"
Oregon, MO              2"
Brunswick                 2"
Conception             1.5"

We've also come across old daily weather maps that were produced by the Weather Bureau for each day in 1907 that this storm impacted the country.  While you may not understand all of the techniques used in the maps, check out the regional forecasts, forecast discussion, and daily statistics for Kansas City. These files are quite large, so it may take time for them to download if you have a slow internet connection.

May 2, 1907 Weather Map                                         May 3, 1907 Weather Map                                            May 4, 1907 Weather Map

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