In as little as a week, the weather in northern Michigan has gone from one extreme to another. The area experienced unseasonably warm weather early last week when temperatures pushed the mercury to nearly 90 degrees; now it struggles to break the freezing mark overnight.
From Thursday to Saturday there have been freeze warnings issued for counties in Northeast Michigan. The cold temperatures did damage to crop that were still waiting to be harvested and forced people to dig out their winter coats sooner than they wanted.
John Boris, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Gaylord, said the cool weather is below average but is not an aberration for the month of September.
"It's not uncommon, but it sure isn't something we see all the time," Boris said. "When you start at 50 degrees, there isn't a long way to go to get to 30 degrees, depending on how clear the sky is or on what the wind speed or direction is."
Friday's low temperature of 28 was set in 1945, but the freeze warnings for Saturday's lows could match or dip below the record mark. Boris said not only has it been cold at night and in the morning, but daytime temperatures have been below the norm.
"We have been running 10-15 degrees below average," Boris said. "It was only 58 degrees (Thursday), when the average temperature is typically about 69. We'll be warming up some, as the winds swing from the south and blow in a warm front. We should get into the 60s for the weekend and up to 70 by Tuesday. We still have some nice weather left before we have to worry about snow."
There were unconfimed reports of snow flakes falling near the Gaylord area, but Boris said it was still too warm.
"We had some sleet and some tiny ice pellets, but it wasn't quite cold enough for snow," Boris said. "To get snow now would be very rare because the lakes are still relatively warm. I mean I guess it is possible inland a little if things set up just right, but it would be very unusual."
In terms of precipitation, Alpena is about a half inch below average for the month of September thus far. Boris said August was a little above normal, but July fell about an inch and a quarter under average.
Boris said people who like fall should be pleased with the effect the cool temperatures will have on the foliage. He said the leaves have been slow to change this fall because of the warm temperatures we experienced in late August and early September.
"Typically this type of weather will get the leaves going; right now we are a little behind schedule," Boris said. "Normally by now there is significant color, but it is really just getting under way. The fact that we have had some cooler weather should really begin to kick-start the color change."
Steve Schulwitz can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5689.