Remembering the Michigan Blizzard of 1978

Michigan Blizzard 1978

Blizzard of ’78 – Somerset, MI, photo by Bill

The most extensive and very nearly the most severe blizzard in Michigan history raged January 26, 1978 and into part of Friday January 27. About 20 people died as a direct or indirect result of the storm, most due to heart attacks or traffic accidents. At least one person died of exposure in a stranded automobile. Many were hospitalized for exposure, mostly from homes that lost power and heat. About 100,000 cars were abandoned on Michigan highways, most of them in the southeast part of the state.
~C. R. Snider, National Weather Service Meteorologist in Ann Arbor, Michigan

Today is Michigan’s 179th birthday, but it’s also the anniversary of one of the most significant storms to ever hit the state, the Great Blizzard of 1978. There’s a cool video below with a lot of photos from the storm (thanks Steve for sharing). William Deedler’s article A Great Storm is Upon Michigan says in part:

While there are several contenders for the worst blizzard ever to hit the Great Lakes in relatively modern times (since 1870 when records began in Detroit), the immense and intense Blizzard of January 26-27th 1978 must rank at or near the top along with the Great White Hurricane of 1913 (my link) with its similar track and powerfulness.

…As the Arctic air circulated throughout the storm while it made its way over Lake Huron, the lowest pressure was reached around 950 millibars or a hurricane-like 28.05 inches! “A Great Storm is Upon Michigan” read the headline of the 800 AM EST Special Weather Statement issued by the National Weather Service Forecast Office in Ann Arbor that Thursday /26th/ morning. Heavy snow and blizzard conditions were extensive as wind gusts in excess of 35 mph whipped the snow into huge drifts across much of Southeast Lower Michigan. Other areas of Eastern Michigan, Indiana and Ohio reported near hurricane-force winds, heavy snow and temperatures hovering between zero and 10 above, resulting in extreme blizzard conditions. These conditions later expanded further east into Pennsylvania and West Virginia and prevailed into the night (26-27th) across much of the Eastern Great Lakes, Southern Ontario and the Upper Ohio Valley. With the storm generating copious amounts of snow and very strong winds, whiteout conditions were widespread. All land and air traffic came to a stand still in the affected regions. Several major roads were closed for at least two to three days, if not longer, while clean up got underway. Numerous NWS employees were stranded at work, home, or on the road somewhere between the two. Several employees worked double shifts into at least Friday (some longer) because of the impassable roads with others simply unable to get to work.

The Blizzard Warnings were allowed to die across Michigan during the forenoon hours of Friday, the 27th. Record 24 hour snowfall totals from the storm included, 16.1 inches at Grand Rapids, 15.4 inches at Houghton Lake and 12.2 at Dayton, OH. Snowfalls for the entire storm (25-27th) included a whopping 30.0 inches at Muskegon (some of which was Lake Michigan enhanced), 19.3 inches at Lansing and 19.2 at Grand Rapids. Snowfalls were less over Southeast Lower Michigan (mainly because of the rain that fell for a period) and included 9.9 inches at Flint and 8.2 inches at Detroit.

Read on for more about the storm.

View Bill’s photo background big and see more in his Kelso: The Wonder Years slideshow.

 

Cold Air Waterspouts

Cold Air Funnel Cloud III

Cold Air Waterspouts, photos by Debbie Maglothin

If you live along the Great Lakes, chances are you’ve seen a waterspout from time to time. While waterspouts are typically formed when cold air moves over warm water in late summer or early fall, occasionally the reverse can happen.

Debbie Maglothin took several photos of cold air waterspouts over Lake Michigan off the Ludington State Park beach. WZZM 13 meteorologist Alana Nehring explains how they form:

A drastic temperature difference between the air an water is required. In the most recent event, water temperatures were near 32 degrees while air temperatures were closer to 10 degrees.

A steady breeze needs to be present to jump-start the process of evaporation.

In most cases, this is also how lake-effect snow is produced but in some unique situations, a slight twisting motion will occur in the steam above the water. If it is maintained long enough, eventually weak funnels will develop.

Click the pics to view them bigger and follow Debbie on Facebook at Cha Bella Photography.

Cold Air Funnel Cloud II Cold Air Funnel Cloud

More Michigan weather on Michigan in Pictures.

#TBT Big Waves on Lake Michigan Edition

And they call this a lake

And they call this a Lake, photo by RJE

The Detroit Free Press reports that massive waves of up to 20 feet in height are forecast for Lake Michigan:

An intense low pressure system is still projected to slam into the western Great Lakes on Wednesday night.

The main hazard with this storm will be incredibly strong winds in excess to 45 m.p.h. at times. This will cause numerous issues, including downed trees and the potential for power outages.

In addition to impacts on land, Lake Michigan will also suffer the wrath of this strong fall storm, where waves could reach as high as 20 feet offshore. A gale watch has been issued by the National Weather Service in Grand Rapids for the Lakeshore and will be in effect from Wednesday evening through Friday afternoon.

NOAA’s Great Lakes Coastal Forecasting System has a ton of resources for visualizing live data and forecasts for all of the Great Lakes. Be sure to check out the animation of forecasted wave heights on Lake Michigan – pretty cool to watch. In case you’re wondering, the tallest (recorded) wave on Lake Michigan is 23′ from September of 2011. Of course the bouys shut down for the winter in December, and they only started measuring in 1988.

Also check out the Grand Haven Surfcam for a live look! 

RJE caught this massive wave breaking against the Ludington lighthouse back in November of 2011. View the photo of  big as Lake Michigan and see more of his great photos of Ludington on Flickr!

More Michigan lighthouses, more waves and more about the Ludington North Breakwater Light can all be found on Michigan in Pictures.

Winter Is Coming … apparently tonight

North Country Girls

North Country Girls, photo by Michael

While El Niño is predicted to bring a milder winter for Michigan in 2016, it looks like things will kick off early with a chance of a dusting of snow tonight & tomorrow:

The coldest air of the season will pour into state on Friday and into the weekend. The cold air will bring widespread lake-effect rain showers to West Michigan. The rain may mix with some wet snow over parts of the state late Friday into Saturday afternoon.

A better chance of accumulating snow will be over the higher terrain of Norther Lower Michigan and parts of the Upper Peninsula.

I should add that although you may want to see it from your car with the heater cranked, color around the state is still really nice!

Michael took this last January when Detroit was locked in the grip of the White Walkers. View it background bigtacular and see more in his slideshow.

More Detroit and more winter on Michigan in Pictures!

Knockout storm packs 100 MPH winds & huge hail

Road Closed in Glen Arbor

Road Closed in Glen Arbor, photo via the Glen Arbor Sun

One more day of storm reporting from my neck of the woods…

In Glen Arbor Hit By Knockout Storm, Jacob Wheeler of the Glen Arbor Sun lays out a diary of the destruction of the storm and wrote:

In the storm’s wake yesterday, Glen Arbor residents immediately recognized that the destruction they witnessed was unprecedented for our town. This was worse than the 1987 storm, people said. In fact, it was far worse. The storm was more powerful and more destructive than any other Glen Arbor storm ever recorded. And now we have stats to prove it.

I spoke late this afternoon to Jeff Lutz, meteorologist with the National Weather Service (NWS) in Gaylord. While Lutz clarified that yesterday’s storm was not a tornado (you can blame some of the hyperbole on this newspaper) he did confirm that the straight-line winds which accompanied the sudden thunderstorm reached speeds of 100 miles per hour. That’s strong enough to be called a tornado. More significantly, it blows away the previous wind velocity record for Leelanau County. According to the NWS, on Sept. 13, 2005, a barrage of wind traveling at 63 miles per hour hit Leland and Empire, but not Glen Arbor. But 63 is not 100. Not even close. Nope, yesterday’s storm was the strongest to ever hit Leelanau County, since records were kept starting in 1950.

You can click through to the Sun for more pics and storm coverage and get even more on their Facebook. Jacob also shared the National Weather Service’s Aug. 2 severe weather recap:

  • Multiple rounds of severe weather impacted northern Michigan on August 2nd, 2015. The first severe thunderstorm warning was issued 10:34 am with an additional 27 warnings being issued before the last warning of the day expired at 8:00 pm.
  • The largest hail reported was 4.25″, or the size of a softball, seven miles north of West Branch at 4:55 pm. The large hail was reported by trained spotters and members of the public. There were several reports of damage to vehicles and other property. At the time of the event, a Severe Thunderstorm Warning was in effect for all of Ogemaw County, issued at 4:33 pm. Additional reports of 1.00″ to 2.00″ hail were received from law enforcement, emergency managers, trained spotters and the public across multiple locations in northern Michigan.
  • The 4.25″ hail observed seven miles north of West Branch was the largest documented hail stone ever to impact northern Michigan since records began in 1950 and the largest since 1998 when a 3.50″ hail stone was recorded in Arenac County.
  • Hundreds of downed trees and power lines were reported on Sunday as 60-80 mph (locally 90-100 mph) straight-line winds accompanied the severe thunderstorms.

Lots more at that link including some pics of that hail.

Stay Cool, Michigan

Stay Cool in Detroit and Michigan

Untitled, photo by Steve Swartz

mLive reports that today and this weekend are poised to bring very hot temperatures to Michigan:

The temperatures are building out west, and winds will turn to blow out of the south starting Friday to bring the heat our way.

Wednesday and Thursday will be comfortable, with temperatures in the 70s, but Friday will be much different, as the south wind should help boost temperatures to near 90 in the afternoon. Leftover clouds from morning storms will likely prevent breaking that mark, but the humidity should make it feel like 90 degrees.

Saturday should make it into the low 90s in all of the southern half of Lower Michigan. It might even make it to 90 degrees in parts of northern Lower Michigan. The humidity will also be higher, making it feel like mid-90s in southern Michigan.

Sunday will also be a hot, sticky day. Some spots will hit 90 degrees, while many spots will be humid and warm to 88 or 89 degrees. How hot we get Sunday will depend on how much sunshine we have and if storms hold off until Sunday evening.

If we have two 90-degree days in a row, it will be the first time in any Michigan city since July 19, 2013.

View Steve’s photo background bigtacular and see more in his Summer 2012 slideshow.

More summer wallpaper on Michigan in Pictures!

Stormy Monday

Tornado Warning

Tornado Warning, photo by Jeffrey Smith

WZZM says that severe weather is becoming more likely Monday afternoon as a cold front sweeps through the state:

Monday will begin with sun but storms will develop to the west and advance quickly into West Michigan by late afternoon/early evening time frame. Models are suggesting the atmosphere will be unstable with abundant moisture by Monday afternoon, meaning storms will have a favorable environment to grow.

The NOAA Storm Prediction Center has most of Lower Michigan in the ‘enhanced risk’ area (orange) on Monday meaning several thunderstorms could reach severe levels. To read more about the convective outlook Monday, click here.

Threats from this round of thunderstorms include damaging wind, hail, lightning, isolated tornadoes, and brief heavy downpours. Thunderstorms reach severe criteria when winds are at least 58 mph, hail is one inch in diameter, or a tornado is produced.

Read the detailed forecast for severe weather and you’d like to get more alarmed, check in with Fox 17 West Michigan’s Kevin Craig.

View Jeffrey’s photo bigger and click for more of his clouds photos.

Stormy Monday, T Bone Walker…. and for good measure, B.B. King.