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Pre New Year Winter Storm Recap

A major low pressure system that originated off the Pacific and gained energy from a disturbance in the lower Mississippi Valley generated inclement weather for Marquette December 28th – 31st. What a way to send out the 2010s!

We kicked things off on Saturday the 28th with a round of frozen precipitation: first sleet, then several hours of freezing rain. Fortunately, the ground was still relatively warm, and ice did not accumulate as significantly as it did in interior communities. Fence posts and trees were observed with a thin coat of ice (< 0.1″). Untreated streets and sidewalks were very hazardous.

As temperatures warmed, precipitation turned to rain followed by rounds of drizzle and fog for the day Sunday. All told, we picked up 1.06″ of liquid that day.

Rain returned for a couple hours early Monday morning and then turned to snow at the beginning of drive time.

Originally, forecasts called for heavy snow from about 9 AM – 3 PM Monday December 30th. However, the center of the low took an unexpectedly easterly path. We were left in a dry slot until early afternoon. As the system slowly moved west and its axis turned a bit, heavy snow began falling across western Upper Michigan, including the City of Marquette.

The center of the low eventually took up residence near Munising the night of December 30th. Favorable dynamics (cool lower atmosphere, relatively warm lake, plenty of lift) spawned lake-effect snow at the tail end of the storm getting us closer to originally projected snow totals. We ended up getting just under 9″ of snow from that event.

Adding up all the precipitation (rain + melted snow & ice), just over 2.5″ fell at our station in less than 72 hours. That’s more than a month’s worth (December normal precip is around 2″)!

It’s quite possible a record was broken for daily precipitation and/or snowfall in Marquette on the 31st. The precipitation record is 0.92″ set in 1884. The snowfall record is 8.4″ set in 1981. Once final figures are in from the official city NOAA COOP station, I will update this article.

Below is a timeline from the storm:

Observations:

  • 7:30 PM Saturday: Sleet
  • 9:15 PM Saturday: Freezing rain
  • 4:00 AM Sunday: Rain
  • 1:00 PM Sunday: Light fog & drizzle
  • 3:00 PM Sunday: Intermittent drizzle & patchy fog
  • 3:55 AM Monday: Rain
  • 6:00 AM Monday: Snow
  • 8:00 AM Monday: 0.5″ snow measurement
  • 12:00 PM Monday: 1.8″ snow measurement
  • 2:00 PM Monday: 0.9″ snow measurement
  • 5:00 PM Monday: 1.8″ snow measurement
  • 8:00 PM Monday: 0.9″ snow measurement
  • 10:00 PM Monday: 0.5″ snow measurement
  • 7:30 AM Tuesday: 2.4″ snow measurement (storm total: 8.8″)

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UPDATE 1/1/20: No records were broken yesterday as the COOP station reported 4.6″ of snow and 0.69″ of precipitation.

Just for reference, the COOP station measures at 8 AM each day. So, to them, the 31st encompasses weather from 8 AM December 30th to 8 AM December 31st. In that time period, our station recorded 8.3″ and 0.86″ of precipitation. We are about 100 ft above them in elevation and measure more often (allowing snow to compact less) typically leading to higher totals for us.

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