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Thread: Record Snowfall - Detroit?

  1. #1
    Member Robert Dewey's Avatar
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    Default Record Snowfall - Detroit?

    I was looking at Detroit's top 6 snowstorms, and decided to pull up SFC maps for the dates:

    April 6th, 1886 (24.5 inches)
    Note: It amazes me how far south and east this storm was. Too bad this is the only data we have!



    December 2nd, 1974 (19.3 inches)
    Note: QPF-DTX: 1.74 inches, QPF-CLE: 1.89 inches, QPF-IWX: 0.21 inches, QPF-IND: 0.16 inches, QPF-GRR: 0.03 inches, QPF-LOT: 0.46 inches, QPF-BUF: 0.04 inches



    March 5th, 1900 (16.1 inches)
    Note: The date preceding and following this event showed no significant low pressure. Either the date is incorrect, or this was a significant overrunning event. Temperatures appear to be in the low 30's.



    March 1st, 1900 (14.0 inches)



    December 19th, 1929 (13.8 inches)



    February 13th, 1894 (12.8 inches)



    Several of the low centers were well to the south/east of Detroit, and none were deeper than 990mb. The March 5th, 1900 event is interesting given the amount of snow compared to SFC temps and placement of the SFC features. December 2nd, 1974 is also interesting as areas outside of DTW and CLE seen anywhere from 0.04 to 0.41 inches of QPF - in other words, it appears to have been a rather localized band (aided by Lake Erie and Lake Huron?) oriented across that area. CLE added an additional 0.90 inches of QPF, and BUF added another 1.0 inches the next day.
    Disclaimer: My facts are not to be confused with opinion.

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    Member John Farley's Avatar
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    I remember the 1974 event, as I was a grad student in Ann Arbor at the time. Ann Arbor got 18 inches, so I don't think Lake Erie played a big role. As I recall the storm was convective in nature, with some thundersnow in Detroit or Toledo, although we did not get thunder in Ann Arbor. The snow accumulated around 2" an hour through much of the day, though. My parents had been visiting for the Thanksgiving weekend from Iowa and were able to quickly get out of the storm by leaving earlier than planned and driving west, so the heavy snow did not extend too far west of Ann Arbor.
    John Farley
    Pagosa Springs, CO

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    Member MatthewCarman's Avatar
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    Since most snowstorms seem to hit the west part of the state I can't find any information on Detroit. The snowiest place in Michigan is Herman with an average annual snowfall of 235.8" of snow and that is in the UP of Michigan. The western half of Michigan on average sees 72" + during winter.

    Taken from "Extreme Weather" by Christopher C Burt. (2003 Edition) Here is some interesting snowfall and ice reports:

    Thompson Pass, Alaska, located at 2,600 feet and about 20 miles inland receives an average of 600" of snow a year but the winter of 1952-52 a total of 975" fell with 346" in a single month. December of 1995 had a five day period where a single snowstorm dropped 175.4" of snow.

    The Mt. Baker Lodge at about 5,000 feet in Washington recorded 1,140" of snow (95 feet!) during the winter of 1998-1999.

    Montague Township, Newyork, in January of 1997 had an unofficial world record of 77" of snow in just 24 hours.

    In January 1-3, 1961 in northern Idaho 8" of ice accumulated. 6" of ice has been recorded once in TX and once in NY with an ice storm.

    Weather historian David Ludlum cites an ice coating on a 12" length of #14 telephone wire weighed 11 pounds during Michigan's famous ice storm of 21-23, 1922.

    SNOW TORNADO:

    Utah, December 2, 1970, a tornado moved across the Timpanogas Divide that had a snow cover of 38". The tornado snapped tress one foot in diameter and sucked snow over a thousand feet high into it's funnel resulting in a solid white appearance.
    There can be miracles when you believe. - Prince of Egypt.

  4. #4
    Member Glenn Rivers's Avatar
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    Default April 6, 1886 Detroit snowstorm

    The track of this low looks almost as far away from Detroit as the March 1993 "blizzard of the century" but some important differences include:

    The 1886 storm is much more elongated in a NW direction...the SLP is almost as low in E Ohio as it is along the east coast along the depicted track. That is a stark contrast to many storms having a track similar to the 1886 one.

    Also notice that the surface winds in Pittsburgh and Erie PA are from the east, suggesting that the NW pointing trough might have been even more defined than was subjectively analyzed on the map. It is possible that there may have been an ill defined weak surface low in E Ohio that was not detected.

    Notice that the winds in Southern Ontario are very strong from the E and back with a cyclonic curvature towards the N as they approach Detroit. This may indicate a baroclinic zone and area of warm advection retrograding W and rotating around a very deep, vertically stacked cold core cutoff aloft way up to to 500 or even 300 mb, possibly centered over Indiana (S of the Detroit area).
    Last edited by Glenn Rivers; 12-06-2009 at 02:04 AM. Reason: Spelling
    Uh....It roped out before it got to Cartman's house
    Dude......that's weak !

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    Member Robert Dewey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Glenn Rivers View Post
    The track of this low looks almost as far away from Detroit as the March 1993 "blizzard of the century" but some important differences include:

    The 1886 storm is much more elongated in a NW direction...the SLP is almost as low in E Ohio as it is along the east coast along the depicted track. That is a stark contrast to many storms having a track similar to the 1886 one.

    Also notice that the surface winds in Pittsburgh and Erie PA are from the east, suggesting that the NW pointing trough might have been even more defined than was subjectively analyzed on the map. It is possible that there may have been an ill defined weak surface low in E Ohio that was not detected.

    Notice that the winds in Southern Ontario are very strong from the E and back with a cyclonic curvature towards the N as they approach Detroit. This may indicate a baroclinic zone and area of warm advection retrograding W and rotating around a very deep, vertically stacked cold core cutoff aloft way up to to 500 or even 300 mb, possibly centered over Indiana (S of the Detroit area).
    I think you're right about the 1886 storm. Looking at the wind directions, it's clear that this was probably a secondary low across OH / KY... possibly enough to pull in additional moisture from the Atlantic into what was probably a pretty large comma-head.
    Disclaimer: My facts are not to be confused with opinion.

  6. #6
    Member Glenn Rivers's Avatar
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    Default April 1886 snowstorm in Detoit

    Thanks, Rob. Now that I think about it, the system was probably not vertically stacked, at least at lower levels, but I would guess that there might have been a rather deep, closed low at the 500mb and 300mb levels, perhaps somewhere over Indiana, with the surface low trying to rotate around it somewhat.

    I found an old newspaper clipping about that storm here in Hamilton. During the April 6, 1886 storm, mountainous surf driven by heavy east gales battered our beach and did a lot of damage at the west end of Lake Ontario, including washing out the railway and flooding lakeside buildings
    Last edited by Glenn Rivers; 12-08-2009 at 11:03 PM. Reason: Spelling
    Uh....It roped out before it got to Cartman's house
    Dude......that's weak !

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