Mayday! Snow on May Day Brings Distress


It's not the first of May that has people crying out "mayday," as central Nebraskans find themselves in distress over the weather.

You'd have to go back pretty far in the history books to see real accumulations of snow in central Nebraska in the month of May.

Kids fumbled with umbrellas on Wednesday, as they shuffled across wet grass and snowy walkways, on the first day of Stuhr Museum's so–called "summer" season.

"It doesn't feel very summer–like, but yes we've started our summer season," said Kay Cynova, director of historical interpretation.

It's time for field trips at the living history museum, with a journey through time.

Cynova said Railroad Town this year provides a view of life 120 years ago.

"May of 1893 you start to see major bank failures," she said.

But this is 2013 and central Nebraskans are writing new records in the history books.

National Weather Service Science Officer Rick Ewald said, "We've had measurable snow, which would be more than a tenth of an inch three times in the past 120 years."

We saw it in April, but to see it in May only happens on average every 40 years. And to see it two days after it was 85 catches even meteorologists like Ewald off guard.

He said, "I put my tomato plants in Saturday, it was so nice out when I get home from work, now I'll be covering them up with a bucket. Can't be too sure this time of year."

It comes at a time when weather experts are preparing people for tornadoes, floods, and hail.

"May and June are big months for that kind of weather, so to go to the other extreme with sleet and one to three inches of snow is very unusual," Ewald said.

If history's taught us anything about Nebraska weather, it's to expect the unexpected.

"If you look at the historical record, they had some pretty crummy weather also," Cynova said.

Meteorologists were expecting up to three inches of snow or more, but said it's not going to look like that much, because the ground is warm enough to melt it right away.

And for the last time central Nebraska saw more than an inch in May, you'd have to go back 46 years. But Ewald cautioned historical snow data is incomplete.

All known instances of measurable snow (one-tenth) in May since 1895:

Grand Island

  • 4.5 inches - May 28, 1947
  • 4.3 inches - May 3, 1967
  • 0.9 inches - May 2, 1954
  • 4.5 inches - May 3, 1967
  • 2) 0.5 inches - May 1, 1911
  • 3) 0.1 inches - May 1, 1994

The last trace of snow, under a tenth of an inch was five years ago, on May 2, 2008.