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Historic May snows hit Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Iowa

By: Dr. Jeff Masters, 1:37 PM GMT on May 02, 2013

A rare and historic May snowstorm continues to pelt Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin with snowfall amounts unprecedented in the historical record for the month of May. Winter Storm Achilles has brought 15.5" of snow to Owatonna, Minnesota, about 50 miles south of Minneapolis. This is (unofficially) the largest May snowstorm in state history, surpassing the 3-day total of a 15" snowstorm at Sandy Lake Dam/Libby. The 14.7" of snow that has fallen at Baldwin, Wisconsin is just shy of Wisconsin's May state record snowfall of 15.4". Minneapolis just missed getting heavy snow, as bands of heavy snow with thunder and snowfall rates over one inch per hour set up over Northeast Iowa and Southeast Minnesota early this morning. There are multiple reports of tree damage across Red Wing, Owatonna, and other locations in eastern Minnesota and western Wisconsin, with power outages in the thousands across the Red Wing area. I-35 is closed in both directions just north of Owatonna due to snow cover and downed power lines.

Here are the latest peak snowfall totals by state as of early Thursday morning:
• Buckhorn Mtn., Colo.:  28.2"
• Near Buford, Wyo.:  20"
• Near Harrisburg, Neb.:  6.1"
• Ringsted, Iowa:  6.5"
• Owatonna, Minn.:  15.5"
• Beresford, S.D.:  6"
• Baldwin, Wisc.:  14.7"

Figure 1. Not yet! "Looks like I got the deck furniture out a little early," writes wunderphotographer MikePic in his caption for this photo taken on May 1, 2013 in Wheat Ridge, Colorado.

Figure 2. Observed snowfall amounts in inches from the May 1 - 2, 2013 snowstorm as of 9am EDT May 2. Image credit: NWS Minneapolis.

A historic May snowstorm for many locations
Rochester, Minnesota has received 7" of snow, smashing their all-time May snowstorm record of 2", set on May 4 - 5, 1944.

Over 3" of snow has fallen in Omaha, Nebraska, breaking their all-time May snowstorm record of 2" on May 9, 1945.

It was the first one-inch-plus May snowfall anywhere in the state of Iowa since 1967. A storm-high 6.5" fell in Iowa at Ringsted.

The 1.5" of snow that fell on Sioux Falls, South Dakota Wednesday was that city's first May snowfall since 1976, the first May snowfall of greater than one inch since 1944, and the 3rd highest May snowfall on record.

Topeka, Kansas, Kansas City, Missouri, and Des Moines, Iowa are all expected to get an inch or more of snow on Thursday through Friday. This would be only the second May snowstorm in recorded history for those cities. Their only other May snowstorm occurred on May 3, 1907 (3.2" at Topeka, 1.7" at Kansas City, and 1.2" at Des Moines.)

Jeff Masters
Mother Nature playing with snow...
Mother Nature playing with snow...
First pile lots of fresh, heavy wet snow all over everything.

Winter Weather Achilles

The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.