Ready for snow? Ready or not, here it came, eleven years ago today. On this date, October 12, 2006, metro Detroit recorded our earliest measurable snowfall. Not just a few flakes mixed with rain, but lake effect snow squalls, enough to stick, mainly on grass and metal surfaces on that Thursday.
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We weren't ready for it then either, especially since the snow was accompanied by freezing arctic air.
Exactly one week deeper into fall and 17 years earlier, we got 2.7" of snow from a freaky low on October 19, 1989. That heavy, wet snow snarled traffic, brought down tree limbs still heavy with leaves, and went into the record books as our earliest snowfall of 1" or more.
But if you're not ready, relax. Both those flaky phenomena were real news, but also attention-grabbing oddities. In fact, since snowfall records began in 1880 in Detroit, only 11% of our Octobers have brought us measurable snow. November is when metro Detroit typically sees its first snow of the season, with 87% of our Novembers on record ending with at least some measurable snow (.1" or more of accumulation).
Our average date for that first snow that sticks is November 17. The first 1" snowfall, on average, arrives just after the turkey roaster is tucked away, on November 30. But if you're dreaming of the first significant snowfall, defined as 3" or more, enough to bring out snowblowers and turn skiers into powder hounds, that average arrival date is December 26, exactly one day after Bing Crosby dreamed of it.
Of course, long term averages are made up of many earlier and later, higher and lower events, but they give us a rough idea of what to expect. I can guarantee we will not break the record for earliest 1" snowfall this year. A week from today, on October 19, we're likely to be warmer than average with sunshine and a high at least into the upper 60s, with more unseasonable warmth to follow that.
And as of now, the Climate Prediction Center's outlook for the winter months of December, January and February is for near normal temperatures and above average precipitation for our area, falling as both rain and snow. But that outlook will be updated as we get closer to December and the global patterns that drive winter weather hopefully become a bit clearer.
However, those "Farmers" books have their own ideas about the winter ahead for metro Detroit. Watch this space for their cold season predictions and a look back at how they've done for us lately.