Temperatures crashed across Upper Michigan on March 18, 1939 as arctic high pressure settled overhead following the big snowstorm three days before. Ironwood set a record at 23 below zero, while Iron Mountain registered 27 below.
The storm was a traditional March blockbuster. It developed in the Rockies, reorganized over Kansas and then shot northeastward toward the western Great Lakes while deepening. A reporter at a local newspaper termed it a â??severe stormâ?|reminiscent of the destructive blizzard of January 1938.â?? A foot or more of snow came down over central sections, with Republic reporting 20 inches. Marquette was buried under 19 inches, while Munising tallied 20. After the storm, Munising in the east-central snow belt of the U.P., measured a massive 52-inch snow cover.
Even in Escanaba, the â??banana beltâ?? of Upper Michigan, 13 inches of new snow fell, whipped by tremendous winds. A correspondent reported what it was like there at the peak of the storm: â??The snowâ??s fallinâ?? like fury. Thereâ??s a 42-mile gale. Ya canâ??t see across Ludington Street. Everythingâ??s tied up.â?? The 42-mile-an-hour wind gust set a record wind speed for March at that location.
After the 1938 storm, little additional snow fell the rest of the winter and the weather was mild. On March 22, 1938 only a trace of snow remained in some shady areas around Marquette. Some people were even out golfing. The 1939 snowstorm was the â??crown of winterâ?? storm that sometimes hits the U.P., bringing the snow cover to maximum winter depths near the first day of astronomical spring. After one of these storms, the snow lingers; the slow march toward true spring warmth is delayed, sometimes for a month or more, until the last of the crusty, old drifts melt.
We have a delay in spring weather this year. In fact, it looks like another big storm for portions of Upper Michigan this week. Everyone will see a few inches of snow tonight. Then the lake-effect will take over as the low that brought the snow parks itself to our northeast. The heaviest snows are expected in the high country from near Ironwood through the Porcupine Mountains to the high country of Ontonagon and southern Houghton Counties. By the time the snow diminishes later this week, up to 2 feet of fresh snow could fall in these areas. Farther east, the Snow Belt from near Munising to Grand Marais and Whitefish Point will likely see heavy lake-effect, too. However, the heavier snows will start later and there probably wonâ??t be quite as much as on the west end. Needless to say, winter is slow to leave this year.