A historic cold snap hit the U.S. in early April 1857. On the 7th, snow reportedly fell in every state of the Union and the temperature fell to a frigid 21 degrees as far south as Houston, Texas.
We know that April 1857 was severe up here in the U.P., too. Ontonagonâ??s newspaper, The Lake Superior Miner reported that a five-foot snow cover in the mining district outside of town during the height of winter shrunk to about 3 feet as April began. Then another foot of fresh snow fell on April 4-5. The temperature at Norwich Mine fell to 16 below zero the morning of the 7th. The region was besieged by another â??continued stormâ?? from April 13 through 17; the northeast gale gradually backed to the northwest, â??bringing a small addition to the old snow.â??
A Miner article reviewed the blustery, inclement highlights of April 1857: â??The first three weeks of April was singularly cold and stormy. Up to the 15th there have been but three bright daysâ?|up to the 20th we had three considerable snowstorms, of which the depth of snow, measured light, would equal two feet. And the entire range is at present (23rd) covered with very compact snow to the depth of three to four feet. The ice on the lake still extends as far as the eye can reach. It may be said we have at present more snow than at anytime during the winter of 1855-6, and the season is at least a month later.â??
The first signs of spring held off until the tail end of the month when on April 29 the â??south wind mastered his cold opponentsâ?? and blew all night. Ice was temporarily driven out of Ontonagon Harbor and the â??first spring rainâ?? fell. By the beginning of May 1857, the north wind, an almost constant inhabitant of the area for the last six months, set in again and the ice moved back to shore; only a â??small openingâ?? was observed at the entry to the harbor on the 2nd. On May 9, yet another â??snowstorm with a cold and severe northeast windâ?? raged, locking the winterâ??s accumulation of ice fast to the shore until mid-month.
The south wind is currently mastering his cold opponents as mild spring weather continues. It will stay warm at least through Friday. However, the cold should reload in Canada as the pattern we experienced much of the winter reemerges this weekend (Images 1 & 2 above). This will mean a step backward into more wintry conditions late in the weekend into early next week.