Snow at First Sight

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2020

When Winter Becomes Historic in Michigan

Talking about winter storms in Michigan is like talking about tornados in Oklahoma, they are just a part of life. Occasionally, however, these storms are so strange they leave an impression and become memorable to Michiganders. 
 
This was the case with the historic storm that passed through Southeast Michigan on January 11th, 2019. 

Snow is Normal, Rain is Not 

Normally a winter storm in Southeast Michigan consists of snow, maybe a little freezing rain, but mainly snow. This is a normal occurrence for January. This time, however, it was rain in the forecast, not snow. 
 
Why is this a big deal, while snow may not be? Snow is frozen and sits on top of the ground. Rain, being liquid, just pools or runs. During non-winter months, the ground helps absorb this rain, reducing the amount that runs. In winter, however, with frozen ground, there is no place for the rain to soak into, so it just runs and collects in low-lying areas. 
 
Again, this might not be an issue if it was just a normal rainstorm, bringing a little bit of rain and then leaving. This particular storm brought in excess of three inches of water in some spots. This is record-breaking rainfall for the area for January.  

When Rain Meets Cold 

The other major hazard of this storm was the cold front following the rain. As the rain was winding down, the temperatures started dropping, and bringing freezing rain and ice before it was all said and done. This cold air froze a lot of the water that had already fallen, and the falling ice and freezing rain caused some power outages throughout the area. 



Coast to Coast Record for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is no stranger to odd weather. There have been blizzards, hurricanes, tornados and other forms of severe and dangerous weather. However, Thanksgiving of 2019 was a whole new story, with wintery and dangerous weather stretching the country from coast to coast. 

West Coast Snow and Rain 

On the west coast, one system was dumping heavy snow and strong winds in the north, and flooding rains in the south. The snow and wind were causing blizzard conditions in Oregon, California, Nevada, and Idaho. This caused several states, including Arizona, to shut down major highways due to unsafe driving conditions. 
 
In southern California, the system was dumping torrential rains, causing flooding in an area just ravaged by a wildfire.  

East Coast Snow 

Meanwhile, another system had moved through the Plains and Midwest, taking aim for the Northeast. This system had already produced over a foot of snow in some areas of the northern Midwest. It continued to move east impacting states from Pennsylvania to Maine with heavy snow and strong winds, causing blizzard conditions in some areas. 

Dangerous Wildfires 

The icing on this cake was the wind that affected most of the United States as a result of these two storms. In Oklahoma, there were already 26 different wildfires raging, and these winds only pushed the rapid spread of the fires. This sparked a state of emergency, with more than 15,000 people without power, and two counties evacuating residents. 
 
Some people certainly welcome early snow, and it can be fun. However, when storms rage from coast to coast, it can have significant and severe effects on property, safety, and travel during such a busy time. 



Freak September Snow Storm Hits Montana

Snow in the Rockies is like ice in Antarctica, it happens. However, even for the Rockies, a September snowstorm that leaves feet of snow behind is a bit freaky. 

Snow, Cold and Wind Oh My! 

This particular storm fell from September 28-29, 2019 and affected parts of Washington, Idaho, and Montana. In Montana, the snowfall totals ranged from 48 inches in Browning in the northern part of the state, to just under 20 inches in great falls in the center of the state. 
 
The snow was not the only newsmaker, though. Record low temperatures reached down into the teens, and winds were howling with 30-35 mph winds. These were all record-setting numbers for a winter storm so early in the season. 

Left in the Cold 

All of these combined to bring down trees and led to widespread power outages. Following these record-breaking events, the governor issued a state of emergency for the affected areas.  

It Ends with a Flood 

One of the concerns following this storm was the amount of snow that fell in just a couple of days, and the quick melt-off that was to follow, leading to area flooding and concerns over mud. You can read even more about this unprecedented snow event in this news article from NPR. 



Unbelievable Blizzard Hits Salina

Kansas is no stranger to winter storms. However, the blizzard that hit the Salina area on November 25, 2018 was one for the record books. 

An Early Winter Storm 

Several factors contributed to what made this particular blizzard a memorable one. The first being there was no previous record of a blizzard hitting Kansas before the start of the meteorological winter, which begins December 1.  

Snarling Thanksgiving Travel 

Second, this was at the end of Thanksgiving weekend. That meant travel plans were impacted, causing some to cut their trips short to avoid the hazardous weather. It was also not a long-range forecast for the blizzard. The initial estimates were for a mere two to four inches with the system. Salina saw 6.8 inches by the end of the storm. In the areas hardest hit in Kansas, snowfall totals were 14 inches. 
 
The change to the forecast did come with enough warning to allow some travelers to adjust their plans and come home early. Others, however, were caught on the road during the blizzard. While there were several accidents along I-70, none resulted in serious injuries. 

Swinging Temperatures 

Finally, the weather on the front end and back end of the storm was inconsistent with the such a winter phenomenon. Temperatures were in the 50’s the day before the storm. Within two days of the storm, the temperatures were back up 40’s and 50’s. For some, the blizzard provided a great reason to break out the snow toys a little early, but only to be disappointed in the snow’s quick departure. 




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