Remembering the heatwave of May, 1911

Published: May. 21, 2020 at 9:26 PM EDT
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Right now, May of 2020 is on par to be the coldest May on record, out of 125 years of weather records. As of May 21, the current mean temperature for the Month is 54.6°. The average is 61.7°. That's a whopping 7 degrees below average!

May 1911 was not necessarily the hottest month on record, however it did set the record for the longest heat wave and the most days at or above 90° for the month of May.

The local heatwave started on May 17th and continued through May 24th. Every day of this heat wave still holds the current record high for both Staunton and Harrisonburg.

Looking at the surface analysis from May 18th, 1911 there was a large ridge of high pressure centered over the Atlantic near the Carolinas that stayed in place for several days.

In fact, the surface analysis even mentioned the contrast with heat in the east and cold in the west. Snow was falling in Yellowstone on the morning of May 19th and there were freezing temperatures recorded in Wyoming in Nevada.

Meanwhile the east coast was baking in heat. With the excessive temperatures came a drought. In fact all three weather stations, Harrisonburg, Staunton and Woodstock only recorded between 0.50"-1.25" of rain.

If you combined all three monthly rainfall reports you would still end up with less than the average monthly rainfall.

The local Harrisonburg Daily News newspaper at the time wrote an article about the heat and drought conditions. "All garden vegetables are at a standstill and the ground is getting drier and harder every day."

Finally at the end of the month there were a few storms and hail reported in Staunton.

Now the average number of 90°+ days in our area per year is 22


In May 1911- this is what was recorded:

Harrisonburg: 15 days at or above 90° with a max high of 94°

Staunton: 12 days at or above 90° with a max high of 93°

Woodstock: 12 days at or above 90° with a max high of 97°

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