MARQUETTE - It's been snowing pretty much continuously since mid-November in many parts of the Upper Peninsula, and the snowfall totals for December are well above normal, but they're far from a record.
"We're at 65.5 inches for December," said David Pearson, meteorologist for the National Weather Service at the Negaunee Township station. "The record for December is 89.5 inches in 2000. We're not going to get close to that. We'll probably be in the 70s."
Pearson said although that's a lot of snow, he does not predict it will break the record. The average snowfall for December is 38 inches.
Jim Richard, of Metro-Clean Corp., scrapes ice and snow off the sidewalk at the corner of Front and Main streets in Marquette as a front-end loader drives past on Monday afternoon. Snow removal workers across the peninsula have had their hands full this month, with snowfall amounts well above normal in many places — though not at record levels. (Journal photo by Julia Woehrer)
The December snowfall is continuing a trend that began in November, which was the second snowiest November on record with 42.9 inches recorded in Negaunee Township, according to Pearson. The snowiest November occurred in 1991 with 48.9 inches. The average snowfall for November is 22.6 inches.
For the season to date, the NWS station in Negaunee Township has recorded 113.6 inches of snow. The normal to date is 64.7 inches.
In Alger County, Munising recorded 54 inches for December, which is about 20 inches above normal. In November Munising received 37 inches of snow, about double its average amount for the month.
Pearson also said that the liquid equivalent in the snow has been 1.15 inches above normal. That trend, if it continues, could cause some major run-off and flooding problems in the spring. The average precipitation is 2.5 inches for December and so far 3.42 inches have been measured at NWS in Negaunee Township.
"To be over an inch - it's substantial," Pearson said.
The "snow story" in Houghton is similar.
Steve Fleegel, meteorologist for the NWS in Negaunee Township, said the snowfall for December for communities around the Houghton/Hancock area has been about 20 inches above normal, according to measurements taken at the Michigan Tech University Keweenaw Research Center at the Houghton County Memorial Airport.
"What they have recorded so far this (December) is 64 inches," Fleegel said.
Atlantic Mine has recorded 65 inches for December, Fleegel said, and Mohawk has 68 inches so far.
"It looks like most areas are in the mid to upper 60-inch range," he said.
Fleegel said the current 60-plus inches in December ranks high, as far as records are concerned.
"It looks like maybe it's getting to the top 10," he said.
Fleegel said in 2000, there was a heavy snowfall in the Houghton/Hancock area as measured at the KRC with about 88 inches. Other snowfall inch amounts for December through the 1980s were in the high 90s, but 1978 was something else altogether.
"In 1978, they had 119 for the month," he said.
But the 68 inches measured at the KRC so far in December is pretty significant, compared to normal for the month, Fleegel said.
"It's above normal," he said. "For December, we normally see 46 inches."
Most of the snowfall in the western Upper Peninsula in December was lake effect snow, Fleegel said, when relatively cold air passed over relatively warm Lake Superior.
"A lot of that (snowfall) has to do with the below normal temperatures this month," he said. "If we see below normal temperatures, that helps with the lake effect."
There were a few weather systems from the Plains states that moved over the U.P., which also brought heavy snow, Fleegel said.