Despite the relatively mild fall and lack of snow thus far, the seasonal transition to winter has begun. It is important for area residents to make preparations for the upcoming winter and focus some attention on winter weather safety. Heavy snow, extreme cold, ice and wind routinely affect the U.P. during winter and pose dangers to life and property.
In an effort to raise awareness about the potential winter dangers, Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm has declared Nov. 7 13 as Winter Hazards Awareness Week in Michigan. "Michigan winters can be severe, so preparedness, awareness and common sense are always important," said Capt. Thomas Sands, commander of the Michigan State Police Emergency Management and Homeland Security Division. "During Winter Hazards Awareness Week, I encourage Michigan residents to learn of the dangers associated with cold, snow and ice, as well as threats posed by the use of heat sources such as wood burning stoves, fireplaces and space heaters."
Due to a strong El Nino last winter, temperatures ended up warmer than normal across Upper Michigan as expected. Last winter went into the record books as a top 15 warmest winter with snowfall averaging well below normal at many locations. In fact, Washington D.C. recorded more snow last winter than downtown Marquette. The biggest storm of last winter affected Upper Michigan during the first week of December with blizzard conditions and up to 2 feet of snow. After that storm, the weather pattern changed resulting in generally mild conditions and limited snowfall. The last few months of winter were very mild. In fact, March ended up being the warmest on record with many locations across the U.P. recording their least snowiest March ever.
The outlook for this coming winter is much more difficult to predict as the El Nino has dissipated and has been replaced by a La Nina. La Nina is a phenomenon where the water temperatures in the equatorial Pacific Ocean are below normal. Unlike El Nino years, there are no direct correlations between a La Nina and the severity of winters across Upper Michigan. The last La Nina winter was in 2007-2008 which resulted in below normal temperatures with at or slightly above normal snowfall across the region. Prior to that, there were consecutive La Nina winters in the late 1990s that were quite mild and not very snowy.
Many simple preparations can be taken to prepare for the upcoming winter season including making sure your car is ready for the colder weather, having a survival kit in your car, ensuring you have warm coats, hats, and gloves, and being aware of potential fire and carbon monoxide hazards from alternate heat sources such as a fireplaces, wood stoves or space heaters.
For more information on how to prepare for the upcoming winter season, visit the National Weather Service in Marquette website at www.weather.gov/mqt