Closing out May with a look at the climate and severe weather

Damage from a storm is seen throughout a town.
Gary and Roger Krukoski survey the damage at Roger's shop in Forada, Minn. on May 31.
Jackson Forderer for MPR News

Retired meteorologist and climatologist Mark Seeley looks back at May and a dramatic month for the record books.

We said goodbye to May this week. I can't believe it's already June 3. So how do you want to look at May in the record books?

Gosh, there's almost too much to talk about in that dramatic month of May, Cathy. A couple of quick things about the general characteristics; it turned out to be slightly warmer than normal in many places around the state breaking the trend of cooler than normal that prevailed during the first four months of the year.

We did get up to 97 (degrees) out at St. James on May 13. In fact, there were 45 daily maximum temperature records set during the month within the Minnesota Climate Network.

It was also generally a wetter than normal month and I noted that Collegeville had their wettest May in history with 9.04 inches. Sartell and Pelican Rapids also had over 9 inches for the month.

But the real story of May was all the severe weather. It's remarkable, in my look at Minnesota's history, May was one of the most remarkable months in history. As far as severe weather, the National Weather Service had reports of 44 tornadoes over nine dates, 338 reports of large hail, one-inch diameter or greater, and 339 reports of damaging winds. Those are remarkable numbers in a historical context.

No kidding. And of course we have to talk about Memorial Day. Probably that was the worst outbreak that we had?

By far the two worst dates in the month were May 30 — the observed Memorial holiday — 15 tornadoes, 27 reports of large hail and 122 reports of damaging winds.

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And we've heard all about the tornadoes inflicting damage back on May 12. There were 19 tornadoes. So May 12 was also a dramatic day with 49 reports of large hail. Insurance companies have just been buried this month with claims. And I don't know how long it's going to take to work out from under that.

Despite all the severe weather though, I was amazed by our Minnesota farmers, they found ways to get crops put in the ground and we now have over 85 percent of the corn planted and over 60 percent of the soybeans planted so they seem to work around the weather successfully during the month of May.

Concerning the historic flooding along the Minnesota-Canadian border, we have a question: ‘We live in International Falls Minnesota, Mark, where we've seen flooding prevail on the Rainy River for weeks. Our gauge has recorded nearly 18 inches of precipitation so far this year. What is the record annual amount for our area of the state?’

Well, the record of International Falls for annual precipitation is 34.35 inches back in 1941. But given that 18 inches is about 10 inches above normal for them, and they've got seven months to go. This may be their record-setting wettest year, which would of course dovetail with all the flooding that's gone on in the Rainy River basin up there. I feel for those people and I hope they're able to work their way through it. It's going to take a while to recede.

Listen to the full conversation using the audio player above.