2017-12-28 / Front Page

Temperatures plummet for New Year

By Amy Hubbell
Of The Enterprise staff

Bone-chilling cold will see out the old year and usher in the new in Leelanau County.

But that isn’t expected to dampen the spirits of hearty revelers who plan to ring in 2018 at Northport’s sixth annual New Year’s Eve ball drop Sunday.

Usually about 100 people show up to see the “ball” — an exercise ball covered with lights — drop from a second-story window.

“People usually stay inside the establishments until there’s about five minutes to go,” said Cheryl Parker, a frequent participant in the ball drop, sponsored by the Northport-Omena Chamber of Commerce.

Inside, where it’s warm, live music will be heard at Tucker’s and at Mitten Brewing Co., according to Enterprise correspondent Deb Disch.

Outside, it will be another story as frigid air that swooped in after Christmas will continue to grip the state and much of the Upper Midwest.

Just 6 degrees separated the high and low temperatures Monday at the National Weather Service (NWS) observation site in Maple City. The high Monday was 8 and the low was 2. Together they provided a 20-degree departure from “normal.”

It was cold, but the waters of Lake Michigan continue to temper conditions, according to NWS meteorologist Jeff Zoltowski.

Further inland on the same day, a high of 3 and low of minus-3 was recorded in Gaylord.

Cold air traveling over the “warm” water of the Great Lakes turned on lake effect snow bands.

Some 15 inches of snow was recorded in Maple City from Friday through Monday.

Less than half that amount was recorded during the same period in Traverse City.

At one time Tuesday morning several inches of snow had fallen in Lake Leelanau with only flurries falling a couple miles south.

“Lake effect snow organizes in narrow bands,” Zoltowski explained. “It can be snowing like crazy in one spot and just a few miles down the road the sun could be shining.”

Neither county tally comes close to the two feet of snow measured during the same period at a site just south of Petoskey.

And as prevalent as the “snow globe” effect has been in the Great Lakes State, it doesn’t compare to the record 63 inches of lake effect snow that fell in Erie, Pa. between Saturday and Tuesday night.

But the local snowfall proved ample and kept the County Road Commission crews plenty busy.

“We had a half our guys out Saturday and Sunday,” commission managing director Dan Wagner said. “But things have been pretty good so far.”

A plow driver was called in Monday night when strong winds shut M-22 over the Glen Lake narrows.

Cold temperatures often wreak havoc with vehicles. But Wagner reported minimal equipment issues this week.

“There was so much snow packed onto one truck’s rear beeper, that we couldn’t hear it,” Wagner said.

Just one plow truck was taken out of circulation when its wing plow needed replacing.

As of Monday, the season snowfall stood at 49.3 inches — seven inches higher than this time last year.

But the total was still considerably short the record December snowfall of 86.6 inches recorded in 1989.

A winter storm warning was in place through 5 p.m. yesterday. The long-range forecast — through the new year — calls for snow each day with highs in the teens and lows in the single digits.

That’s consistent with the season, and OK by Wagner.

“Strange as it may seem, it’s actually easier on our supervisor staff,” Wagner said. “The drivers come in and they know what’s going to happen so they can plan accordingly.”

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