A snowstorm on November 19-20, 1981 occurred just before Thanksgiving and ushered in the winter of 1981-82.
It was warm in the days leading up to the storm. The National Weather Service (NWS) office near Negaunee had four days in a row with 50 or above through November 16. A cool-down then began as low pressure developed from the Pacific Northwest into the central Rockies on the evening of November 17 (Image 2 above). This was the storm that took out the newly constructed Metrodome in Minneapolis. A swath of heavy, wet snow fell in the cold sector of the storm from eastern Minnesota into the U.P. The low itself tracked from Nebraska to Illinois and then into the Lower Peninsula (Image 3 above).
A total of 11.6 inches of snow was measured at the NWS from the storm. Afterward, temperatures stayed cold enough so a snow cover was established for the winter. The temperature did not rise to 40 degrees for the next three months.
The winter of 1981-82 was a cold, snowy one for Upper Michigan. While December 1981 was just about a degree above average, snowfall was heavy. Almost 83 inches accumulated at the NWS site during the month??a record monthly total at that time. There was a Great Lakes-wide snowstorm in early January 1982. It was followed by two brutal cold spells during the heart of January. The month came in around 8 degrees below average. February moderated some but was still nearly 2 degrees below normal. Snowfall for the season was 243 inches??a new record at the NWS site. That record has since been broken three times, most recently in 2001-02 when an incredible 319.8 inches fell.
Winter will not start before Thanksgiving this year. Near record high temperatures should occur Wednesday and Thursday ahead of strong low pressure working eastward north of the U.S.-Canadian border. Once the low moves northeast of us, the cold air will flow in. Right now, it looks as if Friday will feature blustery northwesterly winds bringing in much colder air along with some lake-effect snow. It??s possible that winter may start this year at the end of this week.