Record snowfall Monday, but low output for year

News Photo by Steve Schulwitz Matt Britton, of Alpena, clears snow from his driveway Tuesday. Monday Alpena received nearly seven inches of snow, which broke the previous record of 5.7 inches in 2007. So far this year Alpena is 14 inches below the historical average for total seasonal snowfall.

ALPENA — There have been several local records broken for cold temperatures in the last several weeks, but for the most part there has been little snow in the Alpena area.

That changed Monday, as a snowfall record was set and led to some schools in the area being canceled.

According to the National Weather Center in Gaylord a total of 6.9 inches of new snow was measured at the Alpena County Regional Airport. That broke a record for Jan. 15 when 5.7 inches fell in 2007.

Meteorologist Andy Sullivan said the snow began to move into the area Sunday and a winter weather advisory was issued. He said the intensity of the snow increased Monday morning and changed in intensity many times during the day. As nightfall set in the intensity picked up again and snow piled up significantly in some spots.

“There were some places that got more than others and isolated spots near the Lake Huron shoreline seemed to have gotten the brunt of it,” Sullivan said.

Snow in January is about on par with the historic average of 10.5 inches, but overall the area is well below seasonal averages for snowfall. Sullivan said this far into winter the average amount of snow is historically 37.8 inches, but so far this winter there has only been 24.1 inches to fall. He said in order to reach the historical seasonal average the area is going to have to make up about 14 inches for the duration of the season, which can be achieved, but it will take several significant snow events to do so. Sullivan said one of those events could be Sunday and Monday, but it is too early to know if Alpena is going to receive rain or snow.

“We are looking at a rather large system for Sunday and Monday, but the computer models are having a hard time putting a track together and we don’t know exactly where it is going to wind up,” he said. “It could stay to the south of us, but there is also a chance we could get it. We are keeping an eye on it because it is a sizable system with the potential for a lot of snowfall.”

Sullivan said there are several reasons there hasn’t been a lot of snow in Alpena. There was unseasonably warm temperatures for a good portion of December, which limited snow development. Another reason, he said, is because when the cold temperatures did arrive, they were way below average and caused a significant portion of Lake Huron and most of Thunder Bay to freeze. Because of that lake effect snow is hard to produce.

“The ice literally puts a lid on the moisture source and restricts lake effect snow from developing,” he said. “Some moisture can be drawn, but only enough for maybe some flurries. The lakes forming ice as quickly as they did, did impact how much snow Alpena has received.”

Like most of northern Michigan, Alpena has experienced record cold over the course of the last month or so. Sullivan said with the exception of one short warm spell, temperatures have had a hard time getting into the 20s. He said that is about to change and the second half of January will be much warmer than the first half.

“It doesn’t look like we are going to get the Arctic air that we have been getting, but it is going to get mild,” he said. “We will consistently be in the 30s and even 40s. It is going to be considerably warmer than what we’ve seen for the last three weeks or so.”

Steve Schulwitz can be reached via email at sschulwitz@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5689. Follow Steve on Twitter ss_alpenanews.