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Freak April Storm Brings Skiable Snow to SE MI

Mon, Apr  25, 2005 - By National Weather Service

The National Weather Service reported that many factors made it very difficult for spotters to take snow measurements: The snowfall has undergone considerable melting due to warm ground temperatures. This heavy snow has settled with the length of the snow event. Finally with the strong winds...there has been considerable blowing and drifting snow...especially in the Thumb where drifts are as high as 3 to 4 feet.

There have been numerous reports north of M-59 of trees and large limbs downing trees. There have also been scattered power outages due to the heavy snow and downed trees and limbs.

South of M-59 most of the accumulating snowfall was limited to mainly grassy surfaces and trees. To the north of M-59 however, snow  accumulated on the roads leading to very hazardous road conditions. The snow and the wind in the thumb region has made travel nearly impossible.

Of course, this made some cross country skiers very happy...

A Little History

The lone standout for late season snowstorms ironically is also the biggest snowstorm on record to hit Detroit. It occurred in early April...April 6th 1886...when officially 24.5 inches of snow fell at Detroit (more about this storm is available on NWS-Pontiac web-site under weather stories).

But what about other snowfalls from mid April into may...when the chances of measurable snow drop off substantially? While there have been several measurable snowfalls in the second half of April... Receiving an inch (or more) is less common.

There were a few very impressive storms in very late April into May...

The most notable (and written about) late season storm came along way back on May 9th 1923...or 82 years ago. Six inches of snow was record at Detroit...while areas west and north of the metro area saw 6-12"...with the heaviest falling from Lansing through the Saginaw valley and thumb region.

Another very late season snowstorm was recorded way...way back in 1883. This storm brought five inches of snow to Detroit during the overnight hours of May 21st-22nd 1883...or 122 years ago. Not much is written on the storm other than the amount of snow. The storm was later confirmed and so it remains our latest measurable snow at Detroit. The latest official observed snowfall occurred nearly 100 years ago...when a trace of snow fell at Detroit on May 31st 1910!

Another very intense storm pushed through the great lakes and northern Ohio valley on April 29-may 1st 1909. The storm contained ferocious winds averaging 30 to 40 mph with gusts into the 50s along with three inches of inch of sleet...and thunderstorms at Detroit...and higher snow amounts farther north. A cooperative weather observer in flint recorded seven inches of snow from the storm! Aahh, spring in Michigan!!

Additional late season measurable snow data at Detroit for snowbuffs and other interested parties: These one inch snowfalls are the latest recorded in May.

May 21-22 1883         5.0"
May 13 1912            1.5"
May 10 1902            0.5"
May 9th 1923           6.0"

The following are latest one inch snowfalls seen in Detroit from April 17th-30th since 1880...

April 28-29 1909      3.0"          
April 22 1911         1.0"
April 22 1986         1.0"
April 20 1947         1.2"
April 19-20 1943      3.5"
April 17 1983         3.4"
April 17 1921         4.5"
April 16-17 1961      4.6"