2018-04-19 / Front Page

Spring storm dumps 20 inches, causing havoc

By Jen Murphy
of the Enterprise staff


A VILLAGE of Suttons Bay front end loader moves a bucketful of wet, heavy snow from the downtown area. A VILLAGE of Suttons Bay front end loader moves a bucketful of wet, heavy snow from the downtown area. April has been a month for the record books as Leelanau County residents have experienced the lowest average temperatures and the highest snowfall for the month on record.

So far, a total of 171.1 inches of snowfall has landed in Leelanau this season. And 20 inches of that total came from the weekend system that carried onto Tuesday, forcing residents to scramble for their shovels once again.

If you’re looking for good news, talk to Cedar resident Karen Rennie. She’s enjoyed one of her longest ski seasons ever. And she’s still enjoying.

Rennie, a 60-year downhill skier, works part time at Boyne Mountain Outfitters in Traverse City. “I started skiing on Thanksgiving Day at Boyne, and I’m hoping to ski at Boyne again this weekend,” she said. “The forecast is for 40 and sunny, so it will be a perfect, beautiful spring ski. I have a pair of new Nordica Santa Anas, and they are perfect for this kind of snow.”

In her six decades of shredding hills in northern Michigan, Rennie said she remembers other extended winters — but never this much snow this late in the season.

“This is exceptional,” she said.

Want more good news? Talk to students, who took Monday and Tuesday off from classes.

But overall, residents are trying to forget the exceptional snowmaker that finally wrapped up Tuesday, especially members of the Leelanau County Road Commission (LCRC) crew.

Despite working nearly non-stop from Saturday through the end of the day Tuesday, the LCRC had plenty to do in removing the heavy, wet snow that covered the 650 miles of county and state roads. Manager Dan Wagner said it was “all hands on deck” with long days over the weekend and the first part of the week.

“The biggest challenge we faced was that the storm produced heavy wet snow which is always a challenge for us,” he said. “This was further complicated by the fact that the shoulders are very soft as they had thawed out prior to the storm. Several of our trucks were getting stuck on Saturday.

“The strong wind also created drifting conditions in many areas. Our plows would go down a road and within an hour the road would be snow covered again from the drifting snow making it appear that we had not even been down it.”

Wagner said he did receive some complaints from residents, but that he chalks those up to frustration with the long winter.

“I think a lot of this frustration is because folks are just sick of winter and are lashing out, in this case at the wrong target I feel,” he said. “In addition to fighting the snow on the roads, we also had several trees that came down... Our supervisors did an excellent job keeping on top of instances such as these and also redirecting resources to assist with the emergency service providers.”

According to totals kept at the Maple City volunteer station for the National Weather Service, 11 inches of snow fell overnight Friday followed by 3.2 inches, 3.6 inches and 1.8 inches the following day.

During the four-day period, the average daily temperatures were 15.3 degrees, 18.8 degrees, 16.7 degrees and 18.6 degrees lower than normal. And it was the coldest first 17 days of April since records started being kept in the late 1950s.

But if Wagner is reading residents’ reactions correctly, their frustrations might be over soon. According to the National Weather Service in Gaylord, spring could finally be here. Meteorologist Mike Kurz said the real warm-up will begin tomorrow. “Temperatures will start a slow but steady rise,” he said. And temperatures are expected to climb from the low 50s on Sunday to the mid-50s early next week.

However, Kurz cautioned that it’s really too early to tell if it’s the end for the local winter fashion of hats, mittens and mukluks. “It’s still only April, so there is always a chance of another round of winter weather,” he said.

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