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      May 1997: The Snowy Week

      The upper-air pattern on May 16,1997 featured a deep, cold trough over the eastern U.S. and a northwest flow aloft over the U.P.

      There was yet another snow event over parts of Upper Michigan this past weekend. It has been an interesting springâ??and a frustrating one for those who want warm weather. Road restrictions are still not off many U.P. roads which puts excavation companies and loggers at a big disadvantage. This is not totally unprecedented. In fact, as early as 16 years ago, a good share of the U.P. was enduring at least some snow every day for the better part of a week.

      After the snowiest winter recorded at the time, a warm spell in early April 1997 quickly whittled down the huge banks left by a record March snowstorm. Then the typical slow struggle to spring settled in; a generally disagreeable weather pattern dominated the rest of the month into early May, punctuated by a nice early spring day here and there. Then from May 9-16 it snowed six out of eight days in most sections of the western and central Upper Peninsula.

      The big snow of this period hit the far west on the 12th. Ironwood collected a foot of snow, while Ontonagon measured 13.6 inches. Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, straddling Gogebic and Ontonagon counties, accumulated even more: 16 inches at the park office. Workers who visited Summit Peak (1,950 feet) at the conclusion of the storm measured an astounding 36 inches! While the snow was wet and heavy at the office, typical of a late season fall, the summit snowfall was said to be as fluffy and dry as if it had fallen in January.

      The last snow in the series began quickly during the afternoon of the 16th. A strong, clipper-like low-pressure system raced in from the northwest (Images 1 & 2 above). At 4:00 eastern daylight time, moderate snow was reported at both the Houghton County and Marquette County airports. A quick 3.2 inches fell at the NWS in Negaunee Township, causing slippery roads, which resulted in a number of accidents. The snow disappeared just as quickly the next morning.

      Warmer weather finally visited Upper Michigan the last half of May 1997. More moderate weather the last two weeks raised the average temperature at monthâ??s end to 44.8 degrees, still a healthy 5.4 degrees below the long-term average. The NWS recorded its first official 70 degree day on May 23, 1997, one of the latest on record.

      Weâ??ve already had a 70-degree day (two of them officially) and another one will occur over at least parts of the U.P. on Wednesday. Canada will continue to slowly thaw out this week and that means the cold air masses that build up there will have less and less bite in the weeks ahead.