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December 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.