BLIZZARDS. ICE STORMS. Frigid temperatures. Plow trucks frantically working from dawn ’til dusk.
“We haven’t had this much snow cover since the winter of ’96-97,” says WLUC meteorologist Karl Bohnak.
He’s referring to the nearly four feet of snow on the ground at the National Weather Service station in Negaunee. We’ve had plenty of snow this winter–more than 30 inches above normal in February alone–but what’s remarkable is that because it’s been so cold, the snow is sticking. Not much melt.
Talk to old-timers here, and they’ll tell you this is the way it used to be 40-50 years ago, with drifts ten feet high, cars and homes being enveloped by snow, and residents traversing the neighborhoods on skis and snowshoes.
The surprising thing is, this was supposed to be a winter of slightly below normal snowfall in the U.P. That’s what the meteorological models told us.
“The weather pattern did not develop like we expected it to,” Bohnak explains. “We expected a northwest flow to dominate, and that usually means cold and dry weather. But the pattern shifted, the flow came in from the southwest, and that brought up moisture with it and all this snow.”
Bottom line: longterm weather projections, especially in the U.P., are not always reliable, even when made by our most skilled meteorologists like Bohnak.
So what about the rest of this winter? More snow? More cold? More giant snowdrifts and walls of snow lining our roads?
“Well, the future looks like average to below average temperatures at the end of February to early March,” says Bohnak. “Snow? There could be a couple more systems out there but at this point, there’s no indication of anything really big.”
At this point. That’s the qualifier.
Interesting, Bohnak, himself, was a victim of last week’s storm. Tuesday night, he finished up at WLUC at midnight, went out to his pickup, started it up, but couldn’t get any traction. Stuck in the snow.
In the dark, in a snow storm, in his work clothes. Lovely.
He retrieved a shovel and some sand from the station, no doubt mumbling curses under his breath.
“Fortunately, a guy in a pickup was driving by and saw me,” Karl says. “He stopped, hitched me up to his towing strap, and pulled me out.”
Life in the U.P–cursing the weather one minute, then thanking the friendly, always-willing-to-help people the next.
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