2016-12-08 / Front Page

Winter ushers itself into Leelanau County

By Amy Hubbell
Of The Enterprise staff

There’s a lilt in Kerry Kelly’s voice this week.

The chairman of the Friends of the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail is enthused about predictions for the first significant lake effect snow episode of the winter.

In fact, a winter storm warning has been issued by the National Weather Service, which anticipates

8-12 inches of accumulation through late Friday.

“It was a nice fall. There were nice colors and I got a lot of bike riding in,” Kelly said. “But I’d like to get my skis out.”

Both cross country and downhill skiers may benefit from the sudden change in weather.

Temperature is also crucial for crews at the Homestead who hope to begin making snow for downhill skiing. Temperatures of 28 degrees or lower are needed for the snow-making process.

“Finally, it looks like we’ll be able to make snow,” said Jamie Jewell, vice president of sales & marketing at the Homestead. “It’s good timing.”

Just how much of the white stuff received depends upon a familiar term for real estate: location, location, location.

National Weather Service (NWS) computer- generated maps indicate 6 to 8 inches is likely to fall across the top of the peninsula from Good Harbor north. To the south, 8 to 12 inches are forecast.

But don’t hold a meteorologist to that.

“We’re good. But we’re not that good,” NWS meteorologist Keith Berger said. “Take those maps with a grain of salt. With lake effect snow you can have six inches in one location and drive a few miles down the road had have 12. Just where those lines are drawn isn’t known until it’s happening.”

Colder air was expected to steadily invade northern Michigan yesterday, setting the stage for lake effect snow showers energized by water in Lake Michigan and Lake Superior that is far warmer than is typical for this point in the season.

The colder air is welcomed by Kelly and trail users alike.

“There’s a certain criteria we use to determine when to groom,” Kelly said. “The temperature has to be below 32 and there has to be 3 to 5 inches of snow before we first go over it with a compact roller.”

He added, “I’m hoping this storm will provide use with a start.”

Once a base is established, volunteers use a 9-foot-wide groomer with blades in front with cuts any ice that has formed and mix it with snow.

More winter-like conditions will allow volunteers to increase the length of groomed trails from 10 to 13.5 miles.

“In the past, we’ve groomed from Empire to Glen Arbor, which is about 10 miles,” Kelly said. “Now, we’ll be grooming from the Crystal View trailhead, up past the Homestead to Port Oneida.”

Snow was expected to remain on the lighter side yesterday and intensify last night, continuing today and Friday before subsiding Saturday.

The likelihood of snow is 100 percent today and tonight, according to the NWS, and 90 percent on Friday.

In addition to snow, northwest winds gusting as much as 30 mph is expected to reduce visibility for motorists.

The storm comes on the heels of the warmest November in modern history with an average daily temperature of 45.3 degrees, breaking a 41 year record of 43.3 degrees set in 1975.

As of press time Wednesday, snowfall at the NWS cooperative weather station in Maple City totaled 9.4 inches for the season.

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