My friends and I sometimes laugh that when there’s nothing left to talk about, how we turn to the weather for conversation. In Michigan of course, particularly Northern Michigan, when we talk winter, we naturally turn to the topic of winter storms of the past.
There are, of course, a good many storms to recall.
A particularly significant snowfall in our area was the Blizzard of 1978. Over the course of a couple days in late January, more than two feet of snow blanketed the Little Traverse Bay region, piling up in drifts of up to 25 feet by winds in excess of 50 miles per hour. Some reports suggested winds reaching 100 miles per hour in a few spots.
I remember that snowstorm and the way it filled my family’s narrow Petoskey driveway. I remember too how my father and I moved that snow into banks that eventually towered over my teenage head, blocking out the view of oncoming traffic on the city’s main street in the middle of the day. Neighborhood kids reveled in days away from school, as businesses also closed. Traffic largely halted too, as we walked everywhere in the eerie quiet that followed the heavy winds. It was several days before plows moved snow enough that we could return to routine.
According to MLive.com, that storm saw more than 100,000 cars abandoned on Michigan roadways as the blizzard also claimed as many as 20 lives in the state. Governor William Milliken declared a state of emergency.
There are other monumental storms too, including the storm of 1967 that dropped nearly two feet of snow in places like Flint and Saginaw, as well as in Northern Michigan. Like the later storm, winds amplified the snow causing havoc and stranding motorists as well. Schools closed through this blizzard too, as businesses and public services did also. Other parts of the country witnessed winter records in 1967 as well, including the Northeast and the Great Plains.
More recently, though blizzards might be less intense in the depths of winter, storms on the season’s edges are still memorable. For example, April 2018 brought thawing and sunshine, sure signs of spring, only to be followed in the middle of the month by heavy, wet snows that once again closed schools and slowed commerce. The Emmet County area saw more than a foot of heavy, wet snow in only two days, reminding all that winter is not as predictable as we might sometimes like, and livening school kids unused to snow days so late in the year.
Whether this year’s snow piles up like some historic storms of the past, my friends and I are no doubt going to find time to talk about the weather and those epic storms of the past.