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The weather in the northeast in May remains highly variable. This region can see heat waves, late season snows even tornadoes. Still May with its first warm days, vegetation in full bloom, and nearly 60% of the possible sunshine is a welcome time especially after the long winter.

The land rapidly heats up with the longer days and warm high angle sun. The ocean waters lag behind and the result is that coastal areas are subject to the sea breeze. The sea breeze will bring a welcome cooling effect in upcoming months, but in May it can be too cool and rob the coastal residents of the first warm days. When warm, moist air passes over the cool waters, heavy fog can occur. Eastport, ME on the cool Gulf of Maine has 65 heavy fog days per year. Nantucket Island, MA has 85 fog days, 10 days in May rising to a peak of 14 in July. Early summer vacationers can be disappointed. By fall, as the ocean waters warm and the air begins to cool, the number of fog days drop off to 3 days per month.

Cold days even snow can still occur especially early in the month. On the 3rd in 1903, temperatures dipped to 12 F in Fairfield, ME, 13 F in NH, 15 F in VT. In 1961, a severe freeze did severe damage to crops in New England on the 31st. Temperatures at Burlington, VT dropped to 25 F.

In 1803 on the 8th, 6 inches fell at Princeton, MA and 2 inches at New Haven, CT. On the 4th in 1812, snow fell to sea level with Boston reporting 4 inches and Waltham, MA 9 inches while a foot of snow fell at Millbury, MA and Keene, NH. In 1834, the greatest May snowstorm for parts of New York and New England occurred with 24 to 36 inches in the hills around Newbury, VT. In 1892, 28 inches fell at Stratford, VT. In 1945, a heavy mountain snowstorm brought 26 inches of snow in New Hampshire, 15 inches in Vermont and Maine and 10 inches in the Berkshires in Massachusetts. In 1967, 9 inches fell on the 25th and 26th in New Hampshire and Vermont. In 1977 on the 10th, a heavy snowstorm dropped 20 inches in Norwalk, CT, 12.7 inches at Worcester, MA and 12.1 at North Foster, RI.

Early heat waves can also occur. In 1880, Boston reached 97 F on the 26th. It reached 101 in Lewiston, ME in 1911 on the 22nd. In 1930 on the 7th, Boston reached 95 F. In 1962, the thermometer rose to a record 99 degrees at New York's Central Park. In 1964 a heat wave brought readings to 96 in Hartford , CT and 95 F in Concord, NH. In 1987, 18 cities set new record highs in the east with the highest, Newark, NJ hit 98 F.

Severe weather has visited the area during May. In 1866, a tornado demolished a toll bridge in Barnet, VT on the 13th. A rare downeast tornado occurred over Eastport in 1877 on the 14th.

In 1880. A tornado following a two day heat wave passed through Suffield, CT on the 29th. That same year, a tornado one passed through Island Pond, VT on the 10th. In 1929, on the 22nd, an outbreak of tornadoes occured near Portland, ME and spawned a waterspout over Sebago Lake. In 1954, a hungry tornado ate up a field of potatoes near Caribou, ME. In 1962, a tornado destroyed 70 buildings in Waterbury, CT. In 1995, a tornado ripped through Barrington, MA killing 3 people and injuring 24. Over $25 million in damage was reported and debris was carried more than 45 miles.

Heavy spring rains can bring serious flooding. In 1854 the Great New England Flood occurred on the 1st after 66 hours of steady rain. The Connecticut river crested at Hartford, CT at its highest level to that time. In 1991, thunderstorms produced 5.65 inches of rain in 3 hours resulting in severe flooding in New Marlboro and Sheffield, MA. About 89 miles of road and several bridges were washed out, power outages were widespread. Total damage was near $10 million.

Significant Weather Occurances

May 1, 1854 -

    The great New England flood occurred after 66 hours of steady rain. The Connecticut river crested at Hartford, Connecticut at 28 feet, 10.5 inches. This was the highest known up to that time, but was exceeded in 1936.

May 2, 1983 -

    Severe thunderstorms produced 5 f2 tornadoes and 1 f3 tornado in New York with 3 people killed. A large part of the small town of Boonville was demolished with a damage total of $15 million in the town alone. Golfball size hail accumulated to a depth of 6 inches at pine city.

May 3, 1774 -

    a May snowstorm from New York City to Virginia covered the ground. A severe frost killed fruit in North Carolina

May 4, 1812-

    a May snowstorm covered the ground from Philadelphia to Maine. 12 inches fell near Keene, New Hampshire and 9 inches fell at Waltham, Massachusetts.

May 10, 1977 -

    an unprecedented spring snowstorm, spawned by a huge 5 contour 500 mb cutoff low, hit southern New England and southeastern New York. This storm, which began on the 9th, was an elevation storm. 20 inches of snow fell at Norfolk, Connecticut (elevation 1337 feet) while downtown Hartford received only 1.2 inches. The highest total occurred at slide mountain, New York (elevation 2600 feet) with 26 inches falling. Extensive damage to trees and powerlines occurred with 500,000 people without power following the storm. This was the first may snow in 107 years of records at Boston, Massachusetts although only 1/2 inch fell there. However, in the nearby suburb of Bedford, 9.5 inches fell. Of particular interest is the fact that Concord, New Hampshire received all rain from the storm, demonstrating latitude further north played no role in this snowstorm.

May 14, 1834 -

    the greatest snowstorm ever to occur in may hit the Northern Atlantic coastal states. The hills around Newbury, Vermont were covered with up to 24 inches of snow and the higher elevations around Haverhill, New Hampshire received up to three feet.

May 16, 1874 -

    the mill creek disaster occurred west of Northampton, Massachusetts when dam slippage after rain caused a flash flood with the loss of 143 lives. Total damage was about one million dollars.

May 19, 1780 -

    the famous "dark day" of New England lore occurred. Heavy smoke from forest fires west of New England dimmed the sunlight, so that the noon sky was nearly as dark as night. Chickens went to roost and many persons were fearful of divine wrath.

May 19, 1962 -

    an all-time May record was set when the temperature climbed to 99 degrees at Central Park in New York City.

May 20, 1892 -

    snow and high winds pelted western New England, leaving 10 inches on the ground at Strafford, Vermont.

May 20, 1996 -

    Bridgeport, Connecticut soared to 97 degrees for its hottest temperature on record in May.

May 22, 1911 -

    the temperature at Lewiston, Maine soared to 101 degrees. It was the hottest reading ever recorded in New England during the month of may.

May 26, 1967 -

    a slow moving nor'easter battered New England with high winds, heavy rain, and record late season snow on this day and into the 26th. Winds 70 to 90 mph in gusts occurred along the coast. Over 7 inches of rain fell at Nantucket, Massachusetts with 6.57 inches falling in 24 hours to set a new 24 hour rainfall record. Severe damage occurred along the coast from very high tides. 24.9 inches of snow fell at Mount Washington, New Hampshire to set a new may snowfall record. 10 inches of snow fell near Keene, New Hampshire and 6 inches was recorded at Dublin, New Hampshire.

May 29, 1995 -

    an f3 tornado ripped through Great Barrington, Massachusetts, killing 3 people, injuring 24, and doing $25 million in damage. Debris were carried for more than 45 miles.

May 30, 1987 -

    18 cities across the Eastern U.S. experienced record heat including Newark, New Jersey with a high of 98 degrees and Baltimore, Maryland with an afternoon high temperature of 97 degrees.

May 30, 1991 -

    3 thunderstorms produced 5.65 inches of rain in a 3 hour period across new Marlboro and Sheffield, Massachusetts resulting in severe flooding. Many roads and several bridges were washed out eventually isolating the 2 towns. About 89 miles of road were damaged. Typical washouts ranged up to 8 feet deep and roads that were 25 feet wide were reduced to only 10 feet. Power outages were widespread and a state of emergency was declared. The flooding was the worst since 1955 for the area and total damage was estimated near 10 million dollars.

May 31, 1961 -

    a severe freeze caused heavy crop damage in New England. Burlington, Vermont reported a low reading of 25 degrees.

May 31, 1983 -

    Albany, New York experienced its wettest spring (March-May) in 109 years of records. 19.54 inches of precipitation was recorded.

Average High: 67 Record High: 97
Average Low: 50 Record Low: 31
Average Precipitation: 3.52 inches
Average number of rain/snow days: 12

Average High: 72 Record High: 99
Average Low: 53 Record Low: 32
Average Precipitation: 3.76 inches
Average Number of rain days: 11

Average High: 61 Record High: 96
Average Low: 40 Record Low: 18
Average Precipitation: 2.88 inches
Average number of rain/snow days: 13

Average High: 70 Record High: 97
Average Low: 45 Record Low: 26
Average Precipitation: 3.31 inches
Average Number of rain/snow days: 13

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