This snow could be a good thing

(No, really)

News Photo by Crystal Nelson Despite the cold, Alpena resident Steven Livermore takes his dog, Josie, for their daily walk along River Street on Monday. The National Weather Service is forecasting heavy snow today and Wednesday and the possibility for another snow system to hit the area on Friday.

ALPENA — The snow the Alpena area has received over the last several weeks may be a nuisance for many people, but, later in the year, there could be some benefits from it.

There are also a few possible drawbacks if the snow melts too quickly.

As of Monday, Alpena is only an inch above the historical average for seasonal snowfall, but a storm expected today and Wednesday is sure to bump it up by almost another foot. According to the National Weather Service in Gaylord, there is a good chance for another storm or two before the end of the month, so the snow is expected to continue to pile up.

Warmer temperatures are still at least a week or more off.

Meteorologist Tim Locker said the Alpena area received most of its snow in a fairly short period of time and, although some of it melted during a brief warm spell and a rain system, there are still significant piles and banks on the ground. He said that may be disheartening to some, but some will rejoice in the spring and summer.

“A good winter season adds moisture to the soil, which will benefit the farmers and also adds water to the water table,” Locker said. “During the thaw, the water will run off into the Great Lakes, which will increase the lake levels and allow cargo ships to carry more weight. There are benefits to having a lot of snow in the winter.”

Locker said that, last summer, much of lower Michigan was classified as being in moderate drought. The likelihood of that repeating this year shrinks because of the snow-covered ground, which could be saturated for some time when the weather finally warms. He said that ,if we have another hot summer like we did in 2018, however, the moisture in the ground will dry quickly.

“The added moisture sure doesn’t hurt, but it can dry pretty quickly if we get a long hot spell,” he said. “It only takes a few hot days to suck that moisture right out of the soil, but the added moisture could slow the process down.”

Although a significant warm-up could be weeks away, flooding can also become a concern when there is a lot of snow on the ground and a quick thaw occurs.

“A slow, consistent thaw is always better, but, if there is a sudden warm spell, flooding cold be an issue in some areas,” Locker said. “There is nothing on the extended forecast that shows we are going to get that anytime soon, though.”

For the next several weeks, northern Michigan could see more significant snow events. The National Weather Service is monitoring another system that could impact the area Friday and Saturday. The forecast is currently predicting a 60-percent chance for as much as six inches of new snow Friday, but Locker said there is potential for the storm to shift between now and then, which would impact where the heaviest snowfall will occur.

“There is still some discrepancies in the models and they won’t align until we closer to the weekend,” he said. “It still looks like there is going to be an active weather pattern over the Alpena area for some time and there is going to be a chance of snow, even just a little, for the immediate future.”

Another storm could have a major impact on schools, who have already far exceeded the number of snow days allotted to them by the state. A group of state representatives and senators in Lansing are considering legislation that could excuse some of the days students weren’t in class during a state of emergency declared by Gov. Grecthen Whitmer early this month.

High school sports have also been greatly impacted, and many schools and conferences are scrambling to get games made up as playoffs approach.

Steve Schulwitz can be reached at 989-358-5689 at sschulwitz@thealpenanews.com. Follow him on Twitter @ss_alpeanews.com.