Copper Country Flood Watch: Not because of rain from sky but snow melt on ground

Joshua Vissers/Daily Mining Gazette The view of Lake Superior from Calumet Waterworks Park. The breakup of ice on the Lake Superior greatly impacts spring temperatures across the Keweenaw Peninsula and lakeshore towns.

The Copper Country might be in for a break from the snow and rain in the next couple weeks, according to the National Weather Service (NWS) Climate Prediction Center.

“They anticipate the best chance for less than normal precipitation over the next three to four weeks,” said Jordan Wendt, a meteorologist at the NWS Negaunee office.

The chances are greater than 50 percent that temperatures will be above-average for the next three weeks, Wendt said. After that, temperatures are likely to be about average for the next couple weeks.

This week’s flood watch, which was scheduled to continue until 8 a.m. Friday, is somewhat unusual and has more to do with the amount of snow on the ground than the rain, according to Wendt.

“Since the ground is still frozen and there is such a snow pack, there’s no place really for the rain that falls, and then the melting snow, to go,” he said.

Drains and gutters clogged with snow and ice make it possible for water to back up in places that would otherwise easily drain.

“Prepare now for upcoming hazards that you might know,” Wendt said. “Nobody knows their own home like the owners. If you know you have basement problems with the rain, try to do some preparations for it now rather than waiting for it to happen.”

The melting snow could be more of a problem this year compared to last year, because of the lack of a January or February thaw. The snow that has built up has as much as 11-14 inches of water in it, according to Wendt.

“So that’s 11 inches essentially of rainwater sitting in the snow pack waiting to be melted,” he said.

As always, spring temperatures can be majorly impacted by the conditions of the ice on Lake Superior, particularly for towns on the lakeshore. However, the ice breakup is difficult to predict, as it depends on many factors beyond temperature.

“The big thing is just if it stays icy it would keep temperatures down near the shores… the temperatures closest to the lake would be held down versus areas away from the lake,” Wendt said.

Wind coming across the Keweenaw Peninsula or proximity to Lake Superior can make a big difference in temperatures. As an example, Wendt said temperatures in Pelkie on Wednesday were in the 50s, whereas temperatures at the Houghton Memorial Airport stayed in the low 40s, despite being only a few miles apart.