The month of May in 2012 is the month we can thank for ending the drought in much of the upper Midwest and considerably scaling back the abnormally dry conditions here in Western Wisconsin. But with the rain also came some pretty intense severe weather for parts of the viewing area.
First let’s talk temperatures. They were warmer than average for the month…granted the last few days were well below normal in the 60s for highs. The average temperature for the month was 61.6 degrees, which is 4 degrees above normal. This is the 8th month in a row we've been above normal for average temperature in Eau Claire. Above is a look at the high and low temperature graph and their comparisons to normal and records for each day. The month started pretty warm then quickly went cooler than normal for several days before a big upward trend in the middle of the month. It would culminate with temperatures in the 90s on the 18th and 19th of the month. The 18th actually tied a record when we reached 91 degrees. We stayed pretty much above normal until our downward plunge to the 60s the last three days of the month.
The month started off quite wet. Through the first 8 days of the month we picked up over 2.5 inches of rainfall. Much needed rainfall fell across the Midwest , which helped to end the severe drought and much of the moderate drought that was plaguing Minnesota, Iowa, and a small portion of Western Wisconsin. Most of Western Wisconsin was abnormally dry. This rain likely kept the drought from spreading further into Western Wisconsin. After those first 8 days our weather shifted. The next 15 days were overwhelmingly dry besides one day where a measly .02” of rain fell. This period was also relatively warm and culminated with our two 91 degree days on the 18th and 19th. Towards the end of the month we got into another active and wet pattern. By the end of the month our total precipitation was 4.58”, which was 1.12” above normal.
What's fascinating is just to our west in Minnesota it was far wetter, especially, at the end of the month. Rainfall totals were staggering! The Twin Cities ended up with 9.34” for the entire month of May. That's almost six inches above normal! It was the second wettest May on record in the Twin Cities. They were only one inch away from claiming the record. If you remember last weekend a lot of that rain was due to a slow moving cold front that clobbered the area with heavy rain and thunderstorms. Those heavy rains fell apart by the time it reached us, hence, our less than eye catching numbers. The good news is the heavy rain fell where it was needed the most. Here's a look at the drought status for the Upper Midwest. If you remember from previous blog posts, the drought status is normal in much of southern Minnesota that was under a severe drought only a few months ago. There are still some dry areas, but we've seen a lot of improvement.
Also in May, the wet weather also came with severe weather. Early in the month on the evening of May 2nd a cluster of powerful thunderstorms brought damaging winds through Buffalo and Trempealeau Counties along with large hail and heavy rains. The hardest hit community was Blair where a majority of homes and businesses were impacted. Even the high school sustained a good amount of damage. I was down there early that next morning and the damage was incredible. Siding on houses looked like Swiss cheese from the hail, and big trees were toppled. Below is the report both Jenny You and myself did the day after the storm in Blair.
The middle of the month was quiet, but once again severe weather ramped back up towards the end of the month. On Thursday, May 24th much of the state was under a moderate risk for severe weather. The tornado threat never really materialized with only one tornado being reported near Wausau. The big threat that day was straight line winds. The west and north sides of Eau Claire, Lake Hallie, and Chippewa Falls were hit the hardest. Very large trees were snapped like twigs. They landed on cars, houses, and sadly headstones at one Eau Claire cemetery. Thousands of people were without power after the storm. I remember I went to get damage video and interviews after the storm with our photographer Duane, and all you could hear were chainsaws that evening and the smell of pine in the air. Damage was widespread, but nothing like the storm of 1980. Winds were estimated to at least be 70-80 mph from the storm. Locally could have been higher. Our coverage of the event was extensive. Just head back to our weather page and look for weather headlines towards the bottom of the page. There you will find all the stories we did. Also, we have blog posts on these major weather events in May on our Weather Notebook page. Just click on “more headlines.”
The severe weather threat continued through the Memorial Day weekend. Rock Falls was hit hard by straight line winds on Saturday evening. There were more severe storms Sunday into Monday, but little damage was done. One interesting storm on Sunday in Polk County had some decent rotation and was under a tornado warning. There was a wall cloud, but that supercell never produced a tornado, thankfully.
Finally, this May we looked back at the May just one year ago when on May 22nd a series of tornadoes ripped across the Coulee Region including the city of La Crosse. Fortunately there were no fatalities. That same day a tornado went through downtown Minneapolis. These events were overshadowed by the monster EF-5 tornado that hit Joplin, Missouri killing 160 people.
We now look to June, which is the start of meteorological summer. We'll see if June is a bit of a tamer month than this past one.