This is my 24th winter living in Upper Michigan. During this time, Iâ??ve experienced plenty of snowstorms. My favorite storm is still the storm that occurred 17 years ago on January 26-27, 1996.
Mid-to-late January â??96 was a stormy time in the Upper Midwest. A complex system on January 18-19 dumped rain, sleet, freezing rain and heavy snow on the Upper Peninsula. Many areas of the western third received more than two feet of snow.
Just over a week later, the storm of focus began to develop off the Rockies. It was one of those systems that intensify as it moves into the Great Lakes. These usually drop the greatest snow and bring the strongest winds to the U.P. The low sat over west-central Missouri on Friday morning, January 26 with a pressure of 1003 millibars (29.62 inches). Twenty-four hours later, the storm was centered near the Sault and had deepened to 989 millibars (29.21 inches).
Heavy snow developed over Iowa and southern Minnesota during the day Friday. I had a day off and it was back before everyone and everything was connected to the internet. At home, I really didnâ??t know what was going on. All I knew was that clouds were thickening and the wind began blowing out of the northeast. I couldnâ??t resist; I went into work during the late afternoon just to check how the storm was progressing. I checked the observations upstream to the west and southwest. Des Moines, Iowa, for instance, had heavy snow, thunder and a temperature of 18 degrees. When I saw that, I knew we were in for a monster of a storm.
The snow shield reached the southern fringe of Upper Michigan by evening and spread rapidly northward. The system brought the two main ingredients for a big one over the U.P. Friday night into early Saturday. Those ingredients are snow and wind. Heavy snow fell through the night with northeast winds gusting over 40 miles-per-hour. By morning, most areas had at least a foot of snow. Adjacent to Lake Superior, 23 inches of snow fell in about 15 hours at the National Weather Service (NWS) site near Negaunee. In Skandia, southeast of Marquette, 28 inches was measured at the storms conclusion. Deep drifts were created by the strong gusty winds.You may not remember this quick-hitting snowstorm. Because it occurred on the weekend, it had a relatively low impact on Upper Peninsula residents. Road crews were able to clear the snow clogged roads without much problem by late Sunday. Then another, lighter snowstorm greeted U.P. residents to start the next work week. After that system passed, the coldest blast in recent memory plunged in from the arctic and last through the first week of February. While the cold moderated, winter hung on late into the spring of1996.