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When I'm wondering about weather folklore and historical events this is the man I go to. With more than 50 years of statistical and observational research, he's the dude! When it comes to lunar cycles, woolly bear caterpillars, insects, bugs, and animals, he tracks them, records them, and establishes ties to weather patterns. Only one person takes climatology to a level like this. He's even earned a lifetime achievement award from the National Weather Service for his devotion to data and science. His name is Steve Gottschalk by way of Lowden, Iowa. He's a knowledgeable and interesting man. I'm grateful to him for lending his unique perspective to the site. Steve's "wild" world of weather can be found regularly right here on Take it away Steve!

Sunday's Stormy Weather

The weather on Sunday the 7th was very summer-like with temperatures into the mid and upper 80's with dew points into the middle 60's. I recorded a high of 90 which was a new record for the date. The Quad Cities had a record high of 92.

Thunderstorms moved into the area around 5:00 p.m. I had thunder and lightning for 2.5 hours, from 5:00 to 7:30 p.m. The winds gusted from 30 to 45 mph, from the north for an hour which kind of reminded me of the long duration of the derecho but with the lesser wind speeds. I had just 0.09" of rain from this storm but areas to the south and east of here had much more. After the storm moved off to the east, strong winds gusting up to 35 mph from the S.E. blew for 30 minutes or so with the barometer falling 0.15" during this time. At 7:30 p.m. mammatus clouds stretched across the sky from west to east, the fading sun lighting them up. A rainbow appeared in the east making for a pretty and unusual sight.

For those of you who read my blog last week about May tornadoes and lunar phases, Sundays severe storms and tornadoes occurred during the week of the full moon, the phase with the highest probability.

I counted 53 anthills Sunday morning, some of them were very tall indicating heavy rain. I received 1.23" of rain.

Iowa's Rainfall Trends For May

Going through Iowa's rainfall records for the month of May I was looking for a possible trend and here is what I found.

From 1873 - 1899 the rainfall was fairly consistent, the average being 4.15".

The 1900 - 1919 period was wetter with a 4.73" average.

The 1920's - 1930's were much drier with a 3.24" average.

The 1940's - 1970's were wetter with a 4.03" average.

The 1980's were a little drier again with 3.91".

From 1990 - 2019 were much wetter a 4.95" average.

So far, the 2020's have been drier with a 4.01" average.

The 1920's were the driest with 2.95" of rain and the 2010 - 2019 decade was the wettest with a 5.23" average.

The Top 10 Wettest Mays The Top 10 Driest Mays

1. 2013 - 8.82". 1. 1934 - 0.98".

2. 1903 - 8.48". 2. 1925 - 1.17".

3. 1892 - 8.43". 3. 1887 - 1.55".

4. 1908 - 8.22". 4. 1924, 1988 - 1.75".

5. 2019 - 8.21". 5. 1992 - 1.81".

6. 2004 - 7.86". 6. 1894 - 1.84".

7. 1959 - 7.61". 7. 1874 - 1.88".

8. 1996 - 7.39". 8. 1897 - 1.89".

9. 1915 - 7.34". 9. 1940 - 2.06".

10. 1982 - 7.14". 10. 1939 - 2.08"

May's Weather 140 Years Ago

Here are some excerpts from my old weather journal for May of 1883.

7th - very little corn planted as yet.

14th - the days are still cold and the heavy rains have delayed the corn planting. During the late hailstorm that swept parts of the county, some of the stones measured 1.5" in diameter.

21st - a sharp frost this morning.

28th - the weatherman ought to tie the wind up into bundles so it wouldn't scare the people so much.

31st - the weather is still rainy.

The Tornadoes Of May 9, 1918

On this day in May 9, 1918 at least 4 significant tornadoes swept across east central and northeastern Iowa resulting in numerous deaths and many injuries.

1st tornado occurred at 4 p.m., an F3, 400 yards wide, traveled for 13 miles through Butler and Chickasaw counties. It moved ENE from S of Pachard to "Pearl Rock" and lifted 3 miles E of that village. A woman was killed in the open at Pearl Rock, which is a cluster of a dozen homes at the point where 4 counties meet. As many as 30 people hid in a single cellar. One person was killed and 5 were injured. Total damage was $50,000.

The 2nd tornado occurred at 4:30 p.m., an F4, 800 yards wide, traveled for 50 miles through Floyd, Chickasaw and Winneshiek counties. As the previous tornado lifted, this tornado formed N of Pearl Rock. It moved ENE passing SE of Nashua, just S of New Hampton and through Calmar. Four people died between Nashua and New Hampton as farms were devastated and homes were swept away. Losses in that area totaled $160,000. Losses in and near Calmar totaled $250.000 with 2 deaths just E of town when the tornado was a mile wide. Seven were killed and 15 injured in this storm.

The 3rd tornado occurred at 5:30 p.m., an F3, 250 yards wide traveled 10 miles through Muscatine county. It moved ENE from 4 miles SE of Nichols damaging or destroying 30 farm buildings including a home and barns. Seven persons were injured in this storm.

The 4th tornado occurred at 5:45 p.m., an F3, 200 yards wide, traveled 8 miles through Scott county. It appeared first about 3 miles SW of Eldridge, this tornado moved NE through the N potion of that town. Damage totaled $63,000 before the funnel lifted 4 miles NE of town. Five homes and a church were destroyed. A 1500 lb. horse was carried, uninjured for 250 feet. One person was killed and 21 injured in this storm.

That is all for this edition. On the "wild" side of weather, I'm Steve Gottschalk.


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