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May Mayhem: A Freak Snowstorm Remembered

by Caleb Weatherbee

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So, now it’s May and you figure that you can finally take those snow tires off and pack away all those snow shovels and bags of rock salt until November.

After all, May 5 marked the middle of spring and with that, summer is just around the corner, right?

That’s probably what a lot of New Englanders were thinking back in 1977.

And then it happened. On the evening of May 8, a double-barreled storm: one centered north of Lake Ontario and the other near Harrisburg, PA, slid off the coast and, 24 hours later, had consolidated into one storm system that rapidly intensified southeast of Cape Cod. A mass of unseasonably cold, Canadian air wrapped itself around the developing storm and produced a cold rain which ultimately changed over to a heavy, wet snow.

The result was a particularly unique situation.

Unique since accumulating snow fell so late into the spring with very few historical precedents. There were some astounding totals such as 12.7 inches at Worcester, Mass., and 7.5 inches at Providence, R.I., the only case of measurable snowfall in the month of May in the 20th Century.

In New York State, more than a foot of snow fell at the famous Mohonk Mountain House resort just west of New Paltz, while the highest peaks of the nearby Catskill Mountains received up to 27 inches!

Even in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania, 8 inches of snow fell, while thunderstorms in southern Pennsylvania and Maryland brought wind gusts as high as 70 m.p.h., which downed power lines and caused extensive outages.

It just goes to prove that, even this late in the season, if just the right ingredients come together at just the right time, you can still get one heck of a winter storm!

28 Responses

  1. William T. Grant, my boss, was a weather freak and predicted the storm would be called the Mother’s Day storm of 1977. I had been working hard on a boring project at the Central Massachusetts Regional Planning Commission and I had only lived in Massachusetts for a couple years. I was ecstatic that work was cancelled. Since then I have always appreciated weather events so powerful. I still tell everyone “it’s God’s way of telling us that he is still in control and no matter what we think we “have to” do, life will go on even if we don’t get it done. It gives me the greatest sense of peace and serenity to this day to even think of waking up that beautiful morning, the quiet, whiteness, the peace . . .

    by Herb on Mar 24, 2016 at 9:04 am Reply

  2. Something tells me 2015 will see snow into June!

    by Rich on Mar 28, 2015 at 1:39 pm Reply

  3. What year was the storm?

    by Wulfkub on Mar 20, 2014 at 10:18 am Reply

  4. My 9th birthday party was cancelled due to that storm in Lincoln, RI.

    by susan on May 3, 2013 at 10:16 pm Reply

  5. I remember it well. I was 14, living in RI. I’d gone down the street to pull up a Maple sapling and plant it in my yard, which I did. Leaves on it and everything. It got snowed on that afternoon. Knocked it down for a bit, but it was still there 25 years later. Until someone else decided it should be cut down.

    by Joe on Apr 18, 2013 at 8:53 am Reply

  6. I was working out of Gardner, Massachusetts for Simplex as a driver to Logan Airport back then. Didn’t get far with all the roads closed due to fallen branches.

    by Don on Nov 14, 2012 at 2:23 pm Reply

  7. We remember that day so well. I was pregnant with our daughter and we had just finished hosting a party for the soon to be grandparents. Long day happy memories and schools were closed the next day. Yippee, a snow day in May.

    by Kathryn on May 18, 2012 at 2:03 pm Reply

  8. I remember in the late 60s in june here in Oklahoma we had snow falling for about 5 minutes. the snow was the size of a diner plate. yes it did not stick but i still remember that day.

    by Richard on May 15, 2012 at 2:53 pm Reply

  9. In May of 1993, It snowed in the St Joseph Mo area, I believe it was the 7th or 8th. We got about 8 inches, which melted by noon. That was also the year of the Great Flood of 93′. Any year we have had record snows or late snows there have been floods.

    by Ron Kerns on May 14, 2012 at 1:11 pm Reply

  10. I guess snow doesent have to be for winter only! It snows through march, april, may, june?? and july!? although ive never seen snow after april that i can remember, snow in may is really rare and i couldnt imagine it to happen this year! considering the fact we just had a big one in april but i think were all safe now. Its about 65-70 degrees outside at 10:00 AM. May 2012 is just normal! highs in the 70s and lows in the 50s and 60s. It’l be summer here pretty soon so that nasty, hot weather is about to creep up on us

    by Deanna on May 13, 2012 at 9:59 am Reply

  11. Welcome to May guys!! Beautiful sunny weather.. Were at 80 right now in North Carolina. This is how its supposed to be, Im enjoying it because summers coming around and its only a couple weeeks away. The east coast is having cookout by the pool weather and no snow to speak of until next winter!

    by Norah on May 12, 2012 at 4:37 pm Reply

  12. i dont see how it can snow so late! we live in virginia so were used to snow but not in may. Wouldnt that warm sun melt it really really quick? ive had a few april snows before that were fairly big though

    by Randi on May 11, 2012 at 5:35 pm Reply

  13. I remember back in the mid 70’s in S. Washington state it snowed 4″ on July 6th. Was melted off by 10:00 AM and warmed to about 70 degrees that day/

    by Robert on May 11, 2012 at 9:24 am Reply

  14. My hometown (Missoula, MT) had a snowstorm on June 3/4th, 2001. I just remember being woken up at about 6AM to snapping tree limbs. Most of the trees on our property were damaged or destroyed. Many trees in our historic area were also damaged to the point of where they needed to be removed. It was sad!

    by Heather Morris on May 10, 2012 at 11:30 am Reply

  15. I was a junior at SUNY @ Geneseo south of Rochester, New York. It was a beautiful spring morning so I left my dorm in just a light jacket. My club was selling daffodils in the college union. By noon it was snowing pretty hard and I had to walk all the way back to my dorm with my arms full of daffodils. Later that day the campus was closed.

    by Susan Plihall on May 9, 2012 at 11:57 pm Reply

  16. I was in high school when the storm of May 9 hit–we received two inches because we were on the western fringe of the storm (Binghamton, NY). Strangely enough, it wasn’t our snowiest May 9–or even our snowiest Monday, May 9 because we received over three inches of snow on Monday, May 9, 1966. I was only five years old then, so I was too young to remember. We also received snow on May 8-9, 1983 (Sunday-Monday). In addition, we also received measurable snow on May 9, 2010 (Mother’s Day), and the high temperature failed to exceed the 30s for the first time in exactly 44 years!

    by Bobby Ruane on May 9, 2012 at 9:17 pm Reply

  17. the snow of 1977 in may was the first time i have ever seen such a snow so late! after that year snow in may hasent happened again. December-February is our snow season in North Carolina!

    by Tracey on May 9, 2012 at 8:47 pm Reply

  18. I remember that May, ’77 storm. Texas Instruments shut down the night shift & sent employees home. I lived on the other side of Lubbock, & the drive took me forever. Lots of folks had to be pulled out of ditches by other folks, who had trucks with hitches & winches. West Texans aren’t used to driving in snow.

    by kat deardorff on May 9, 2012 at 3:18 pm Reply

  19. I remember it snowing in the Texas Panhandle in May during the mid 70s. It must not have accumulated very much. We were headed to Raton, NM and it snowed Memorial Day weekend!! I was just a kid, but I recall being so happy that it was snowing again:)

    by Kimberly on May 9, 2012 at 2:19 pm Reply

  20. I live in S. Central Texas, and I would welcome snow any day.

    by Lois Rankin on May 9, 2012 at 12:57 pm Reply

  21. Remember it well! I was under a maple tree fully leafed with a heavy blanket of snow which was dripping ,on to my grandmothers casket as we placed her in the ground that morning!!!

    by Barbara Palumbo on May 9, 2012 at 12:55 pm Reply

  22. Oh how well I remember this day! I was at work 8 miles from my home. My Mom was watching my 1 year old daughter. While working, the storm began. I wasn’t even wearing a coat, and had Spring-like attire on. I was stranded for 2 days and had to bunk in with one of the locals in the little town I worked in. My Mom was stranded at my home with my daughter and my 10 year old cousin. When my Dad was finally able to get to the three of them and take them to Moms, as my house had no heat, and he had rigged something for heat at his (memory is not sure, but must have been a wood stove), they went outside and built a HUGE snow and ice igloo, which I have a photo of. No lights, no heat, and no one moving anywhere. What a time that was!

    by Lauren on May 9, 2012 at 12:01 pm Reply

  23. I live in Alberta Canada. In 1982 we travelled to Saskatchewan (next to Alberta) in a heavy snowstorm in JUNE!! It can snow anytime it feels like it. Don’t plant too early!! Dawn

    by dawn hodgson on May 9, 2012 at 10:00 am Reply

  24. We didn’t have as much snow as usual here in Maine this year. I don’t remember 1977 because I wasn’t born until 1980, but I have seen my share of April snow storms. By March I am always ready to see it gone for sure! The wood stove is one of my favorite things about winter. There’s nothing like it on a cold, snowy day, with venison stew slowly cooking on top!

    by Amber on May 9, 2012 at 9:36 am Reply

  25. I remember this well. I had recently moved to NY from CA and had waited for a beautiful spring Saturday to drive around and take photos of my new location to send to my family out west. The sun was shining, the sky was blue, the grass and trees green, and tulips and other flowers were blooming. The next day I went around and took some of the same photos covered by 8-10 inches of snow! May 8 was Mother’s Day and I always referred to it as the Mother’s Day Blizzard of 1977 but perhaps that name didn’t go down in the popular imagination.

    by Mary on May 9, 2012 at 9:31 am Reply

  26. This year I didn’t get the snows like I wanted – it was simply too warm in southern Indiana during the winter season. Hopefully we won’t ever have a tragic blizzard, but I would love to just once be snowed in… provided I had company, food, heat and electricity! 🙂

    by Jim on May 9, 2012 at 9:16 am Reply

  27. my family and i were living at urbana,mo. when it snowed in may of 1977,remember it well!

    by ellen tinder on May 9, 2012 at 8:55 am Reply

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