ASK TOM WHY: Was there a major snow storm on May 1 years ago?

Dear Tom,

My husband insists that there was a major snow storm on May 1st many years ago. Is he correct?

Thanks,
Phyllis Shugall
Morton Grove

Dear Phyllis,

It happened nearly 75 years ago, but your husband’s snowy memory is correct. The Chicago area received its heaviest May snow when 2.2 inches was fell on May 1-2, 1940 at the city’s official observation site on the University of Chicago campus. Following a balmy 73-degree high on April 30, temperatures plunged in the wake of a strong cold front. Rain began after midnight and changed to snow during the morning on May 1 and continued overnight finally ending the following afternoon. The snow forced the postponement of a game at Wrigley Field between the Cubs and Boston Bees. The snowfall was even heavier in other parts of the metro area with 3.7 inches at Midway Airport, 4.8 inches at Marengo and 5 inches at Elgin.

Delightful photos from this early Spring season

And from Wadsworth, IL comes this beautiful sunset shot taken last evening by Kathy Stinson.  The orangish-red hues are quite beautiful! Photo courtesy of Kathy Stinson, Wadsworth, IL

And from Wadsworth, IL comes this beautiful sunset shot taken last evening by Kathy Stinson. The orangish-red hues are quite beautiful!
Photo courtesy of Kathy Stinson, Wadsworth, IL

A series of beautiful spring sunsets--this one in Lake Geneva from Shirley Latte. Photo courtesy of Shirley Latte, Lake Geneva, IL

A series of beautiful spring sunsets–this one in Lake Geneva from Shirley Latte.
Photo courtesy of Shirley Latte, Lake Geneva, IL

Wes Carrasquillo sends us this shot of a cardinal out taking in Thursday's 60-degree temps in Aurora. Photo courtesy of Wes Carrasquillo, Aurora, IL

Wes Carrasquillo sends us this shot of a cardinal out taking in Thursday’s 60-degree temps in Aurora.
Photo courtesy of Wes Carrasquillo, Aurora, IL

ASK TOM WHY: Do you crack the windows in your house during a tornado?

Dear Tom,

I have heard you should crack the windows in your house during a tornado. Please give me your thoughts.

Rich Middleton, Rockford

Dear Rich,

Do NOT do that. It’s a notion conclusively laid to rest by research conducted in 1977 by an engineering team at Texas Tech’s Institute for Disaster Research and further discredited by all that’s now known about how tornadoes work. Opening windows in or near tornadoes is a useless exercise and a waste of precious time that ought to be used in getting yourself and those you are responsible for to a safer location. In fact, it may actually contribute to damage to the house.The pressure drop in the strongest tornadoes is about 10 percent, and that pressure decline can be vented by the normal openings in a house in just three seconds, even with the windows closed.

Lisle, IL Tornado

John Piepenbrok reminds us it’s tornado season with this shot taken by his Great Uncle in the Lisle, Illinois area after the devastating March 28, 1920 Palm Sunday tornado outbreak over the Midwest and Deep South. This photo shows the storm damage in the Lisle area. The storm produced 37 tornadoes which left 380 dead and 1,215 injured. Elgin and Melrose Park were hard hit in this area with 10 fatalities in Melrose Park.  Tornado watches were still more than 30 years away and the only weather information which was available at the time were forecasts in the newspapers from the day before.
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Photo courtesy of John Piepenbrok

ASK TOM WHY: How many past Good Fridays have experienced rain or snow?

Dear Tom,

How many past Good Fridays have experienced rain or snow?

— Michael K. Garrison,
Chicago

Dear Michael,

Good Fridays do show a bias toward precipitation. With the help of Chicago weather historian and climatologist Frank Wachowski, we checked the weather on 143 Good Fridays dating to 1871. Measurable precipitation has occurred in 73 years, or 51 percent of the days, at a time of the year when the daily climatological expectation for precipitation is about 40 percent. When traces of rain and snow are added to the mix, the percentage jumps to 64 percent as compared with an expectation of 56 percent. The last rain to fall on Good Friday was April 22, 2011, when more than half an inch soaked the city.