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Record Frost In East, Thunderstorms On Plains

May 14, 1996

Cold air in the East dropped temperatures to record lows Tuesday and froze some fruit and vegetable crops, while thunderstorms piled up in warm air spreading across the Plains.

Temperatures in much of the East were well below normal, with record lows from the Great Lakes into the Carolinas.

Pittsburgh shivered at 30; the previous record for the date, at 34, had stood since 1876. Parkersburg, W.Va., had its iciest reading on record for the entire month of May at just 29 degrees.

West Virginia’s coldest spot was Green Bank at 19, while St. Mary’s, Pa., fell to 16.

The cold nipped fruit and vegetable plants in Pennsylvania.

``We’re talking about millions of dollars in damages here, to growers already hurting from the long winter,″ said Penn State agriculture professor Mike Orzolek.

``I talked to one grower who is probably going to lose 1 1/2 million cabbage transplants,″ he said.

``None of the growers can remember temperatures this cold, this late, and they’ve been farming here for 50 or 60 years,″ Orzolek said.

In West Virginia’s Eastern Panhandle, Ronald Higson said the cold killed about half his strawberry crop near Wiley Ford.

``We’ve been growing here since 1984-85, but this is the first year we have been hit this late in the year by frost,″ Higson said.

Temperatures also hit record lows, mostly in the 20s and 30s, in parts of Virginia, Ohio, Delaware, Kentucky, Indiana, upstate New York, Connecticut, and Tennessee.

Farther south, Charleston, S.C., cooled to a record low of 53. And off to the west, Burlington, Iowa, had a record low of 34.

Light snow was possible at higher elevations in New England.

The thunderstorms developed along a warm front moving across the southern and central Plains. They produced hail up to three-quarters of an inch in diameter in Oklahoma during the morning and later spread into northwestern Missouri and southeastern Nebraska.

Hail as big as golf balls fell at Lincoln, Neb., accompanied by wind gusting to 60 mph, the National Weather Service said.

Rain and thunderstorms also were scattered over southern Missouri and northern Arkansas. Scattered showers and thundershowers extended northward into parts of northeastern Iowa and eastern Minnesota.

The storms and showers were expected to move up the Ohio Valley and into the Northeast by late Wednesday.

Showers moved inland across the Pacific Northwest during the afternoon, caused by an area of low pressure sitting off the West Coast.

Some thunderstorms associated with that weather system spread into northern Idaho.

Rain also was likely in western Montana, and on Wednesday showers could extend southward into central California.

Elsewhere, showers and thunderstorms developed over parts of southern Florida, with a chance that rain also could extend into parts of Georgia and South Carolina.

Tuesday’s temperatures around the Lower 48 states ranged from the morning low of 16 at St. Mary’s, Pa., to early afternoon readings of 91 at El Paso, Texas, and Needles, Calif. The lowest wind chill was 15 at Mountain Home, Idaho.

Update hourly