On This Date in Iowa Weather History – May 6

Iowa certainly has had its extreme weather. May is no exception and today (May 6) has proven that Iowa can experience many different types of weather no matter the season. From snow to tornadoes to extreme heat or bitter cold and not to forget flooding. Below are 6 years of the most extreme weather across Iowa that has occurred on May 6.

  • 1885: A late spring cold spell produced frost and flurries across Iowa from May 6-9, 1885.  On the morning of the 6th it was reported that ice half an inch thick formed on standing water in Muscatine County. Flurries were reported at Sibley, St. Ansgar, and Waukon that morning and at other stations across northern Iowa on the following two days. The cold spell resulted in widespread damage to garden plants, orchards, and other vegetation across the state.
  • 1890: Unseasonably cold weather resulted in light snow mixed with rain and sleet in some areas. At Des Moines the Weather Bureau observer reported a trace of snow, while at Amana the observer wrote that ‘snow fell on the 6th, covering ground to a depth of one inch, but all melted by noon.’
  • 1934: One of the hottest summers on record in Iowa began in earnest as the temperature reached 100 F at Sioux City where this remains the earliest date of triple digit heat on record. This was only the first of a remarkable 11 days that month on which a 100 F or higher temperature was recorded somewhere in Iowa. Other reported high temperatures included 100 F at Alton, 99 F at Le Mars, Storm Lake, and Waterloo, 98 F at Algona and Grinnell, and 97 F at Atlantic, Fayette, and Washington. At Des Moines the month would finish as the warmest May on record with an average temperature of 71.1 F. A couple figures in the slideshow below shows the maximum temperatures and their departure from normal.
  • 1971: Severe weather struck southwestern Iowa for the second consecutive day. After an F3 tornado on the 5th injured 12 people in Taylor County as it passed through the town of Conway, a severe hail storm on the 6th dropped stones 2 inches in diameter in Mills County for such duration that they drifted 2 to 3 feet deep in the ditches and gullies around Glenwood.
  • 1983: A tornado touched down briefly in Pleasant Hill on the eastern edge of Des Moines, producing F2 damage as it destroyed 11 homes and damaged about two dozen more on a path only 8 to 10 blocks long and 50 to 75 yards wide. Several other tornadoes touched down across central and southwestern Iowa that evening but produced only minor damage with no injuries.
  • 1989: Unseasonably cold air settled across Iowa for the first week or two of May. The coldest temperatures were reached on the 6th when flurries were reported at most locations in the state and Hampton measured a tenth of an inch of snow. Temperatures bottomed out in the 20s at most stations north of I-80 and in the low to mid 30s to the south with the lowest readings including 26 F at Allison, Fayette, and Oelwein, 25 F at nine stations including Decorah, Forest City, and Hampton, 24 F at Charles City and Colo, and 23 F at Cresco. The low temperatures across Iowa were 12 to 18 degrees below normal! See the slideshow below for a map of where the coldest temperatures were located on May 6, 1989.

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