Cold, slushy spring weather continues

HOUGHTON – As many as five inches of snow fell on some high-elevation areas of the Keweenaw Thursday night, continuing one of the most wintery Aprils on record. But that should be the last of the white stuff that sticks – at least for the next week or so – says meteorologist Jason Alumbaugh of the National Weather Service office in Negaunee.

“It’ll be drier next week, not warm, but no snow,” he said, adding that the weekend would probably be the best chance to get outdoors and catch some sun, with Sunday temperatures mostly in the mid-40s.

Other areas got almost no snow, a discrepancy that was due to temperatures hovering near freezing.

“We were kind of fortunate,” Alumbaugh said. “If it was just a little bit colder there would have been a lot more. In northern Minnesota they had a foot of snow.”

Alumbaugh said local April snow totals have been heavier than normal, but aren’t approaching record-breaking except at two Baraga County weather stations that have only been keeping records since 2000. But what is extraordinary, he said, is the continuing cold and the fact that there wasn’t a single winter thaw to reduce snow totals leading up to this month.

“Winter came in November and never let go. It’s just been so cold,” he said.

In Negaunee, he said, April temperatures have averaged 4 degrees below normal, March was 8.6 degrees colder than normal, and December, January and February combined – the meteorological definition of winter – were the coldest on record. The trend has been the same throughout the western U.P.

While the Keweenaw has had heavy snow totals for the season, some areas in the U.P. were actually below average in snowfall, Alumbaugh said.

“But it’s never melted, so that’s boosted our perception of the winter that will never end,” he said.

In Keweenaw County, the road commission logged four inches of snow Thursday, bringing its April total to 41 inches and seasonal total to 337.5. Neither come close to records – there were 55 inches of snow just last April.

Assistant Engineer Steve Defour said the biggest problem for the road commission has been frost, a product of the cold weather, that bottomed out at 75 inches.

“The roads are heaving pretty bad,” he said.

Plowing late season snow can create another challenge, Defour added.

“We had to be real careful plowing because the shoulders are soft, and keep the plows up a bit so they don’t dig in,” he said. “With the shoulders soft, if we’re not careful we’ll get sucked right off the road, so it’s slow going in this kind of weather.”

By Friday afternoon, Defour said, all county roads were clear of snow.