How unusual is May snow in Metro Detroit? A look back at weather history

Michigan and Woodward Avenue in 1880 (Photo by: Schenectady Museum; Hall of Electrical History Foundation/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images) (Chris Hunter, Getty Images)

DETROIT – Yes, Mother Nature has thrown a monkey wrench into our spring plans.

This is May, and we’re supposed to be thinking about golf, Tigers baseball, planting flowers and gardens, and the warmth of that strong May sun. But not today. Not only is it cold, but some of us will see snowflakes. Ack! Yuck! Aargh!

So how unusual is May snow?

Pretty unusual, but probably not as rare as you think. The daily record snowfall most days this month is a trace (meaning snow, but no accumulation).

In fact, our May 8th record snow is a trace, so even flurries officially at Metro Airport today would tie our record snow for the day! And we had a trace of snow on May 14th and 15th, 2016.

There are nine days in May with measurable record snowfall, including the first four days of the month, with 0.1" to 0.3" record snows on those days.

But there have been some biggies. On May 9th, 1923, we had a six-inch snowstorm! I have framed and hung in the Local 4 weather office the newspaper coverage after that storm that a viewer sent me. Most striking to me is the photo of fans lined up in the snow at old Navin Field to buy tickets to see Babe Ruth and the New York Yankees!

Paul's framed Detroit News page. (WDIV)

May 13th, 1912 was a Monday, but it might as well have been Friday the 13th for the bad weather luck Mother Nature bestowed upon us. That day brought another unpleasant surprise to Metro Detroiters as 1.5 inches of snow fell!

By late May, we aren’t just thinking spring...we’re starting to think about SUMMER. But May 21st and 22nd, 1883 dashed those hopes with a five-inch snowfall! That’s just awful. On the bright side, May 22nd is the latest measurable snowfall we’ve ever had.

So what is the latest date that ANY flakes have fallen on the Detroit area? May 31st, 1910! I propose a toast to never breaking that record.

About the Author:

Local 4 meteorologist Paul Gross was born in Detroit and has spent his entire life and career right here in southeast Michigan. Paul has researched, written and produced eight half-hour documentaries for WDIV, as well as many science, historical and environmental stories.