When Spring Became Winter–And Summer
Cerro Gordo County
When winter became spring in Cerro Gordo county, 2013, no one expected that the costliest snowstorm of the season was still yet to come.
Appropriately dubbed “Winter Storm Achilles” by national meteorologists, the snowstorm caught locals off-guard by dumping 5-11 inches of snow over northwest and north central Iowa on May 2, 2013, sometimes at rates of over 1 inch per hour. Up to 8 inches more fell the following day.
Osage, Iowa, in nearby Mitchell County received attention for breaking Iowa’s May snowfall record by the third of the month with a total of 13 inches. The previous record was set in LeMars, with 10 inches accumulated by May 28, 1947.
Achilles broke records in Mason City as well, including the record for May snowfall in a one-day period with 6 inches on May 2, the latest 6-inch snowfall the city had ever seen. Mason City’s total May snowfall record nearly doubled to 9.5 inches from the 4.5 inch record set in 1947.
According to KIMT Chief Meteorologist Adam Frederick in the Mason City Globe-Gazette, this storm marked the eighth time snow fell in Iowa in May since record-keeping began. The storm contributed to making May of 2013 Iowa’s wettest May on record.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association reports $200,000 of property damage in Mason City, mostly due to power outages and traffic accidents on the slushy roads, which blindsided Iowa Department of Transportation. The DoT website had stopped reporting winter road conditions on April 15 and asked locals for updates via social media.
Despite the severity of the storm, Cerro Gordo’s spring fever did not break. Local gardeners were still able to pick up their flower orders at the Mason City Public Library, though their planting may have been delayed. The much-anticipated annual Opportunity Village Walk went on as planned as well.
Some Cerro Gordo farmers who had done some early planting in late April, unsuspecting of the freak snow event, were relieved to find that their crops had survived under the thick snow cover. Others were set back by the unusual weather. The USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service’s Crops and Weather Report released later that month reported that as of May 12, only 15 percent of Iowa’s crop was in the ground compared to 86 percent in 2012.
The most shocking part of Winter Storm Achilles’ story occurred 12 days after the storm ended.
May 3, 2013 in Mason City
May 14, 2013 in Mason City
Though on May 2 and 3 Mason City experienced record low temperatures of 36 and 33 degrees respectively, the National Weather Service reported a record-breaking temperature high of 99 degrees in Mason City on May 14
Sources: Good, Laura. “‘Good to get planting.’” Mason City Globe Gazette, 13 May 2013. Web. 2/2018; “May 1-3, 2013 Historic Spring Snowstorm,” National Weather Service. Web. 2/2018; “National Climate Report – May 2013.” National Centers for Environmental Information, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association. Web. 2/2018; Nicklay, Deb. “Osage sets monthly snowfall total for Iowa” and “Storm’s over, records set.” Mason City Globe Gazette, 3 May 2013. Web. 2/2018; Skipper et al. “Surprising May storm unloads on North Iowa.” Mason City Globe Gazette, 2 May 2013. Web. 2/2018; “Storm Events Database – Event Details.” National Centers for Environmental Information, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association. Web. 2/2018; “Weather History for Mason City, IA.” Weather Underground. Web. 2/2018; “Winter Storm Achilles: 10 Amazing Facts.” The Weather Channel, 4 May 2013. Web. 2/2018.