2017-10-05 / Front Page

Snow contest starts with winter prediction

Cold and snowy December
By Alan Campbell
Of The Enterprise staff


A SURE SIGN that winter is approaching are salmon leaping onto the spillway of the Leland River. The show was nonstop Monday in Fishtown. 
— Photo by Jay Bushen A SURE SIGN that winter is approaching are salmon leaping onto the spillway of the Leland River. The show was nonstop Monday in Fishtown. — Photo by Jay Bushen Time will tell if the summer-like weather of September was a fluke, with the National Weather Service predicting winter to arrive with a flurry — make that snowflakes — in December.

Leelanau’s official “snow spotter” will be ready.

“We don’t go anywhere in the winter,” said Harold Feigel, who counts snow inches while maintaining the Maple City volunteer weather station. “I’ll just plow the driveway and watch the snow.”

Feigel is accustomed to both. The retired Leelanau County Road Commission driver has been keeping track of the snowfall for the weather service for several years. He enters his totals on a website maintained by the Gaylord weather office, which is in turn used as the official “snow gauge” for the Leelanau Enterprise snowfall contest.

A contest entry blank can be found on page 16 of this edition. The deadline to get in your guess postmarked or hand delivered to the Enterprise is Friday, Oct. 27.

The rules are fairly simple, and are written on the entry blank. First place comes with a $200 check — and bragging rights for having correctly predicted a Leelanau winter.

Those winters have been up and down in recent years. After setting a new snowfall record with 263.4 inches in 2013-14, snowfall hasn’t topped 150 inches since. Some 123.4 inches was recorded by the National Weather Service through Feigel last winer.

Meteorologist Tom Locker, who has been stationed in Gaylord for seven years, says that the latest forecast calls for the warmth to continue through October and into November.

“Our outlook is not completely done, but it’s looking like mild through Thanksgiving. Then colder and more snow starting around Thanksgiving, and finishing with ‘average’ snowfall,” Locker said.

Cold fronts that eventually pass over the Peninsula could find plenty of pent-up energy in Lake Michigan to create lake-effect snowfall, he added. Earlier this week surface temperatures on the big lake were reported by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration at 67 degrees. The normal from 1992 through last year at this time of year is 58 to 59 degrees, Locker said.

“All it takes is one really good wind storm, and that can turn the temperature rather quickly,” he added.

According to the Gaylord office website, the chance of having above-average temperatures over the next three months is 41 percent, followed by 34 percent for having “near normal” temps and only 25 percent for below normal.

But the odds even out for the three-month period starting in December, with 33 percent chances of higher and lower temperatures and a 34 percent chance of near normal temperatures.

Feigel said snowfall totals often depend on the type of precipitation falling. “System” snow, created by passing cold fronts, usually comes with “those fine crystals and it takes quite a bit to have anything to measure,” he said.

But lake-effect snow, the type that can be blown off your door handle, is characterized by over-sized flakes that pile up in a hurry.

“You can have ten inches of snow and then melt it and it’s only a teaspoon of water,” he said.

To stay accurate, Feigel measures snow as often as required.

“If it’s snowing int he morning and then the sun shines, I’ll check twice. In the morning you can get 2, 3 and 4 inches of snow, but by noon it’s melted. You’ve got to get out and measure while you can.”

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