Mother's Day and Other Ridiculously Late Snowstorms

James J. Garriss

Mother’s Day is supposed to the perfect time for flowers and family outings! Except this year, moms in Denver would have preferred mittens.

As the day drew to a close, a storm threatened to drop 3 to 4 inches of snow on the city. At that, city dwellers were getting off easy. Winter storm Zephyr dumped a foot of snow at higher elevations and some areas in Wyoming were hammered with three feet of snow! (By the way, a zephyr is actually gentle western breeze—not a storm!)

Mother’s Day brought a real surprise to Colorado! Source: NOAA

Mother’s Day snowstorms are not that unusual for Colorado. May snowstorms occurred in six of the last ten years. Nevada, Wyoming and Montana have had snowstorms as late as June. And that’s only since we have officially been keeping records.

In the Little Ice Age, conditions were ridiculously cold. During one of those years, 1816, “The Year Without a Summer”, it snowed throughout New England and the Mid-Atlantic states in June. (Almost no crops ripened in New England and thousands of people were ruined and forced to move from New England to the Midwest.) In another year, 1859, Bradford County, Pennsylvania recorded a snowstorm on the Fourth of July!

In 1816, the “Year without a Summer”, June snowfall and summer frosts drove thousands of people out of New England to the warmer Midwest.

So, it may be May, but some parts of the country seemed to have decided to skip springtime and have two winters. If you are lucky, your April showers are over and you are wallowing in May flowers. But remember—if you are looking for flowers in the Northern Rocky Mountains this year, you might want to bring some skis. If there is going to be some ridiculous snow, you might as well enjoy it!

If you are looking for flowers in the Northern Rocky Mountains this year, you might want to bring skis. Source: National Science Foundation



Gregory T. Sarafin (not verified)

7 years 6 months ago

The most unexpected snowstorm i ever encountered was in late August in the early 70's. I was camped in the mountains in Pennsylvania, and in those younger days I would choose to sleep under the stars (I couldn't afford a tent anyway!). We shared a bottle of wine or 2 and went to sleep. The next morning when I woke up, it was much brighter than usual, and it seemed through my unopened eyelids that there was lots of white around me. The first thing I saw was my grey blanket, but wait, it was white!. There wasn't a lot, but it was enough to put a light coating on everything.

dianne r. (not verified)

7 years 6 months ago

I'm afraid this will be our year without a summer here in the mid atlantic. Do you think there's any hope that it will finally warm up in the eastern half of the country?

It seems as if this pattern favoring below normal temps will never end. I'm starting to get very concerned that this same pattern we've been locked in since winter will persist into summer. The west coast will easily have a hot summer and their situation with the drought will only worsen. Maybe if the el nino develops soon enough it could change things around this summer but after the winter and spring we just had many are skeptical about any kind of prolonged warmth reaching the east coast.

I may have to flee southern Maryland and take a vacation to the beaches of Florida!

I know you will disagree, but I hate the hot weather, and am enjoying these refreshing conditions. It doesn't keep me from the beach, and it is still cool enough to play tennis or bike ride.

Actually temperatures for the month of May are running above normal. This month we've been pretty warm.

Ironically spring hasn't been unusually cold either. There were a few cold spells here or there in April, however. I am in SE Ohio so I know exactly how frustrating it is because we've been slammed with snow after snow after snow this year. Many are sick of chilly weather but reality is, it's not summer yet but it will come! The sun is very powerful this time of year and the summer sun WILL NOT allow it to get this chilly again for some time.

It's completely normal to have swings in temperatures as we recover from a terrible winter and I wouldn't be shocked if we had more. This has all happened before.. especially after the wicked winters of the 1970s! *shivers*