We are approaching the seventh anniversary of the fierce hailstorm that hit Marquette on June 20, 2007. This is the time of year for big hailstorms in the Upper Midwest. The low-level atmosphere continues to warm as we approach the warmest time of the summer. At the same time, there is still enough cold air aloft to produce big hailstones in the largest, most intense thunderstorms. Just this past Monday, hailstones measuring up to three-and-a-half inches in diameter pelted parts of Iowa and Nebraska. Looking back in Upper Michigan weather history, one of the most destructive storms to hit a populated area occurred 106 years ago today.
??The worst wind and hail storm in the history of Ironwood?? broke over the city shortly after 6:00 p.m. June 18, 1908. Hailstones measuring as large as four inches in circumference rained down during the height of the storm, accompanied by a torrential downpour. Driven by high winds, the hail smashed windows in every section of the city.
Florist R. Lutey suffered the most damage of any Ironwood area business as the majority of the windows in his greenhouse were shattered. Forty windows were broken at Central School with all other school buildings sustaining significant window damage. Stained glass in area churches ??were pierced as if there had been a fusillade of bullets.?? In all cases, damage was the worst on west and north sides of buildings facing the storm??s prevailing wind.
With windows broken, flooding rain freely entered homes, soaking floors and damaging carpets, rugs and hangings. Shade trees were broken and uprooted. The next day everyone in town was busy cleaning up. Window glass soon became a precious commodity; no glass dealer in town was prepared for the demand caused by this fierce hailstorm.
Significant hail as well as severe weather has been at a premium so far this June in Upper Michigan. The reason lies in the fact that, so far, we have been out of the action when it comes to big rains and thunderstorms. The main frontal boundary has set up to the south where Iowa, parts of Illinois, Wisconsin and Lower Michigan have had repeated rounds of thunderstorms. The front has stalled down there separating hot, humid air from the cooler, drier air now over us.
The pattern ahead does not look conducive to severe weather either. Currently, there is an upper-level ridge building over south-central Canada which will reach a peak over the Upper Great Lakes tomorrow morning (Image 1). The high acts as a block to the normal east-west movement of weather systems. This means the low to our west will weaken with time as it struggles eastward into the ridge (Images 2 and 3). While some shower activity will occur late this week into the weekend, the weakened system is not likely to produce any severe weather over the Upper Peninsula.