Following a pleasant April, the Midwest experienced a cool, damp May. Meanwhile, May opened with record flooding in parts of Tennessee and Kentucky, while drought gradually expanded and intensified from eastern Texas into the lower Mississippi Valley. Cool, wet conditions on the northern Plains contrasted with warm weather and a gradual drying trend on the southern Plains, and cool, wet weather also plagued the Northwest and parts of California.
Monthly temperatures averaged at least 5°F below normal in a broad area stretching from California to the northern High Plains. In contrast, readings averaged as much as 5°F above normal in scattered locations from the central Gulf Coast into the lower Great Lakes region.
In early May, torrential rainfall continued across the mid-South, while heat spread into the East. On the first day of the month, Nashville, Tennessee, received 7.25 inches of rain en route to a May 1–2 total of 13.57 inches. Nashville's previous two-day record of 6.68 inches had been set during the passage of Tropical Storm Frederic in September 1979.
Localized totals of at least 12 to 18 inches were noted across western and central Tennessee, with 18.50 inches reported in the Haywood County community of Brownsville.