For several days before May 19, 1790 many people had noticed unusual activity in the skies over New England. Spring was late that year and one of the most bitterly cold winters on record has ende and while the air was now warmer, it was also thick and heavy. The sun had taken on a reddish hue in the hours surrounding dusk and dawn, and the moon had begun to glow pink at night. General George Washington, who was encamped with his Continental Army in nearby New Jersey, commented on the strange weather in a May 18 diary entry. “Heavy and uncommon kind of clouds,” he wrote. May 19, 1780 started out as a typical, if not gloomy, morning. The skies were cloudy and it was cool and a light rain was falling over some areas. Across Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut, people rose and began to mill about their towns and farms. It wasn’t until around 8 or 9 a.m. that many noticed something was amiss. A mass of rust-tinted clouds suddenly blew in from the west and began to blot out the still-rising sun. Instead of growing brighter, the skies dimmed and turned hazy and copper-colored. In Weston, Massachusetts, merchant Samuel Phillips Savage marveled that a veil the color of cider had descended “over the whole visible heavens.”e time a bright and reddish kind of light intermixed with them…”
By noon, the sun’s disc was completely obscured, leaving much of New England in the grip of a gloomy odd blackness. Many people were forced to work and take lunch by candlelight. Others simply stared in hushed amazement at the scenes unfolding around them. For many of the god-fearing population of New England, the sudden blackout seemed positively biblical. People rushed to the nearest church to confess their sins and say a prayer. Some even hunted down their local parson and demanded an impromptu sermon. While the pious took solace in prayer, others made a beeline for the nearest tavern and a much needed drink.
Of course there was a simple answer to the dark day of May 19th 1780 In the early days of May 1780 there was a huge forest fire going on just east of Lake Huron and the smoke from that fire was the reason for the dark day in the Northeast. And this was not the only time a massive fire made the skies dark. In June of 1950 a massive fire in western Canada made the skies turn dark in parts of the Northeast. As the sun was turned to various shades of blue or violet over much of the eastern part of the US. In places such as Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Fort Erie and New York, it was so dark that the lights at baseball stadiums had to be turned on to illuminate mid-afternoon ball games.
We are now in the Memorial Day Weekend and the start of the summer season. It has been a cool spring with just 1°3 days of 70 or better so far this year and we are still waiting for our first official 80° day at Grand Rapids. It also has been wet with 10.33″ of rain at Grand Rapids,
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