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Snow in May: Looking back at the freak snowstorm that hit St. Louis in 1929

In 1929, the St. Louis region witnessed a May snowstorm that brought inches of snow, tore down telephone lines and even uprooted trees.
Credit: Missouri History Museum
Carondelet Park in snow - Alexander Lyle Mansion (1930).

ST. LOUIS — The snowstorm of May 2, 1929, took the Midwest by surprise. With a high of 70 degrees the day before, St. Louis had moved on from winter and begun spring planting, according to a St. Louis Post-Dispatch newspaper clipping from that snowy day.

An all-night rain changed over to snow that morning after a 38-degree drop in temperature, the Post-Dispatch reported. Strong winds whipped through, and the heavy, slushy snow piled up, breaking tree limbs, pulling down telephone wires, uprooting some large trees in parks and along highways and delaying the city’s street cars, buses and trains.

Birds who had returned from their winter homes to St. Louis suffered when the blanket of snow hid the insects and seeds they eat, but the Saint Louis Zoo's tropical animals were not affected, the Post-Dispatch reported. They were still in their indoor habitats.

According to the National Weather Service, St. Louis saw 4 inches of snow that day, and the freak May snowstorm wreaked even more havoc in central and southern parts of Illinois. Decatur saw 4 inches of snow, Marrionsville saw 4.3 inches and Hillsboro and Waterloo observed 5 inches! To make things worse, southern Illinois also had several inches of hail the day before that amounted to about $400,000 worth of damage to fruit trees and crops.

Across southern and eastern Missouri and central and southern Illinois, communication was cut off. Western Union reported 1,000 telegraph poles down, and Southwest Bell lost 508 telephone poles within a 30-mile radius of St. Louis, according to the NWS.

Credit: KSDK
Latest Measurable Snowfall

The May 2 snowstorm wasn’t the latest one in St. Louis history, though. In 1998, the city saw snowfall on May 6, but there were only 0.2 inches of accumulation, according to Extreme Weather Watch’s records. St. Louis' latest freeze of the season on record came on May 10, 1966.

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