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Earth Sense: Unusual weather events have occurred frequently on July 20

POSTED: July 20, 2014 12:25 a.m.

Hopefully, you’re enjoying a quiet July 20 while sitting down with The Times. In history, today’s date hasn’t always been uneventful.

For example, on the northeastern end of the U.S. you find the town of Calais, Maine. It borders the St. Croix River, with the province of New Brunswick, Canada, on the other side.

On this day in 1890, Calais set a record when snow fell “to an appreciable depth,” according to newspapers of the time.
The storm that brought a white coating to Calais was accompanied by a heat wave on the western end of the continent, driving the thermometer past 100 in Oregon.

In 1934, on the same calendar day, Keokuk, Iowa, reported the highest temperature ever measured in that state, with the mercury topping out at 118 degrees. This tops even the hottest July 20 in Georgia, when the city of Brunswick sweltered in 106-degree weather in 1986. Gainesville was equally uncomfortable at 103 degrees.

In the Philippines, July 20 is remembered mostly for the most destructive earthquakes to hit that nation in 1880. On Luzon, the largest island, a series of quakes reduced homes and churches to rubble. The Richter scale wasn’t in existence, but the amount of damage puts the event in a class similar to the great Sendai, Japan, earthquake of 2011.

College campuses tend to be quiet during the month of July. That fact was a blessing last year when a tornado swept across the campus of Ursuline College near Cleveland, Ohio, on July 20, 2013.

A wall collapsed in the school’s athletic center, making it doubly fortunate that no game was in progress. At the same time, Madison Heights, Mich., was being battered by winds approaching hurricane force (60 mph) and knocking out power for thousands.

The mountain nation of Nepal, sandwiched between India and China, was hit even harder on today’s date in 2013. In two days, its Kailali Province received 13 inches of rain, resulting in floods and landslides that displaced 2,000 families and destroyed dozens of homes.

Far from there, also on July 20 last year, flooding in Chihuahua, Mexico, closed the airport and overwhelmed roadways, trapping motorists. The Internet shows footage of dramatic helicopter rescues.

No calamities of this kind are foreseeable for Hall County today, showing again the benign character of North Georgia where natural hazards are concerned.

Rudi Kiefer, Ph.D., is a professor of physical science and director of sustainability at Brenau University. His column appears Sundays and at


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