HOUGHTON - It's been snowing pretty much continuously since mid-November in parts of the Copper Country, but although the snowfall for December is well above normal, it's far from a record.
Steve Fleegel, meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Negaunee Township, said the snowfall for December for communities around the Houghton/Hancock area has been about 20 inches above normal, according to measurements taken at the Michigan Technological University Keweenaw Research Center at the Houghton County Memorial Airport.
"What they have recorded so far this (December) is 64 inches," Fleegel said.
Kurt Hauglie/Daily Mining Gazette
Crews remove snow from Shelden Avenue in Houghton early this month. Although the snowfall for the Houghton/Hancock area for December is about 20 inches above normal, it’s nowhere near the 119 inches that fell in December 1978.
Atlantic Mine has recorded 65 inches for December, Fleegel said, and Mohawk has 68 inches so far.
"It looks like most areas are in the mid to upper 60-inch range," he said.
Fleegel said the current 60-plus inches in December ranks high, as far as records are concerned.
"It looks like maybe it's getting to the top 10," he said.
Fleegel said the records for snowfall he was able to find go back to the late 1970s. In 2000, there was a heavy snowfall in the Houghton/Hancock area as measured at the KRC with about 88 inches. Other snowfall inch amounts for December through the 1980s were in the high 90s, but 1978 was something else altogether.
"In 1978, they had 119 for the month," he said.
But the 68 inches measured at the KRC so far in December is pretty significant, also, compared to normal for the month, Fleegel said.
"It's above normal," he said. "For December, we normally see 46 inches."
Most of the snowfall in the western Upper Peninsula in December was due to lake effect, Fleegel said, when relatively cold air passed over relatively warm Lake Superior.
"A lot of that (snowfall) has to do with the below- normal temperatures this month," he said. "If we see below normal temperatures, that helps with the lake effect."
There were a couple weather systems from the Plains states that moved over the U.P., which also brought heavy snow, Fleegel said.
The relatively warm temperatures in much of the Western U.P., which melted some of the snow on the ground, was due to a low-pressure system in the central Rockies, Fleegel said. That system pulled warm up from the Gulf of Mexico.
Fleegel said there's more snow coming to the Copper Country the rest of this week caused by an Alberta Clipper system from Canada, but nothing significant. Over the Keweenaw 2 to 4 inches could fall today. On Tuesday, there could be strong winds and 1 to 2 inches of snow. Temperatures should be in the high teens to about 20 degrees.
"That's pretty close to normal," Fleegel said.
A third Clipper system Thursday could bring another 3 to 5 inches of snow, Fleegel said.
Kurt Hauglie can be reached at email@example.com.