Finally: Storm brings snow on Copper Country

HOUGHTON — For better or worse, the mild weather couldn’t last.

A storm hit much of the Copper Country Sunday and continued through Monday, decisively ending the relative down period of the past month.

Monday’s storm comes from a persistent lake effect snow band with western and northwesterly winds, said Jim Salzwedel, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Negaunee.

“There’s very limited ice on Lake Superior, so it’s the perfect scenario for the Copper Country and Keweenaw to get much-awaited snowfall,” he said.

The National Weather Service issued a winter weather advisory until 1 a.m. Tuesday for Keweenaw, Ontonagon and northern Houghton counties.

Keweenaw and northern Houghton counties were projected to see 2 to 4 inches, with isolated spots seeing between 6 and 8 inches. Ontonagon County was expected to get another 2 inches of snow.

In all, the Hancock area had received about 14 inches as of Monday afternoon, he said.

The snow combined with high winds to make for hazardous travel. In some spots, visibility was less than half a mile.

Some areas could see wind chills as low as 20-below zero. At that level, exposed skin could suffer frostbite within 30 minutes, the NWS said.

“The Copper Country should escape from some of the low wind chills, because the outside air temperature’s not going to be as cold,” Salzwedel said. “But it’s still not going to feel pleasant.”

Finlandia University closed for the day. Local K-12 schools did also, triggering the closure at Portage Lake District Library and the Hancock library.

Even with Monday’s onslaught, the winter has a long way to go to catch up with the norm. Keweenaw County Road Commission’s snowfall records put the seasonal total at 132.5 inches through Sunday, compared to 177.5 at the same time last year. Almost all the gap can be blamed on January, when only 23.5 inches fell compared to 76.5 over the same span in 2021.

It’s been too warm this winter for the usual snowfall, Salzwedel said. Where there’s been cold air in the region, winds haven’t been favorable for the Copper Country. Other sections of the U.P., including Negaunee, have had better luck with lake enhancement effects from northern and northwesterly winds.

“They caught up a little bit with this, but for Copper Country concerns, it’s pretty far below normal,” he said.

Salzwedel, who leads the Negaunee station’s observation program, also put out a call for more citizen weather observers. The places most in need of additional observers are in the vicinity of the Houghton County Memorial Airport, Mohawk and Copper Harbor.

It’s a year-round commitment, Salzwedel said. In winter, that can entail up to 15 minutes a day, including melting snowfall to record the total volume.

For more information, call the NWS at 906-475-5212.


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