Detroit’s Top Snow Storms

Detroit’s Top Snow Storms

If you have ever been through a winter in the city of Detroit, Michigan the last word you would probably use to describe it would be “mild”.  No winter in the history of Detroit, Michigan’s history has ever been “mild”.  Living in Detroit makes the locals very happy to hear that global warming is a real event.  They may never be on the same level as West Palm Beach, Florida but if their winters can turn into something like Kentucky then they will be some of the happiest people alive.

Many of us are so focused on the immediate region where Hurricane Sandy made landfall in New York and New Jersey that we forget how massive the storm really was.  The aftershock of Sandy actually reached all the way to Detroit.  All of the weather that happens around the world is connected I some way.  Whether they are connected by jet streams or by lines of latitude.

When a storm comes through Detroit it also has the big old water bucket to dram energy from that we like to call the Great Lakes.  The Great Lakes have provided energy to many storms over the years that have passed through the greater Detroit area.  With such large water buckets to drink from, some of the worst storms in the history of our country have occurred in Detroit.

We dug up some information and bone curdling statistics on just how bad these Detroit storms of winters past have actually been.

Your Grandfather’s Snowstorm Stories are True

When we go back into the past to compare Detroit snowstorms to today, the best way to find out truly how bad they are is by firsthand accounts.  Any decent journalist will tell you that.  But what if the firsthand accounts come from your grandfather who walked both ways, uphill in snowstorms through 12 feet of snow for months on end?  May be you should start to believe a few of his stories.

The worst snowstorm ever recorded in Detroit, Michigan occurred in early April of 1886.  The worst part of the storm was not the amount of snow that fell.  It was the classic winds blowing off of the Great Lakes that made the storm so terrible.

In total, 24.5 inches of snow fell on the city which is still the largest snow total to date ever recorded in Detroit.  But much higher snow totals have been recorded in other parts of the country.  But those other parts of the country did not have the ungodly winds.

The winds pushed snow drifts to as high as twelve feet.  The snow in the streets was anywhere from 10 to 40 inches deep depending on which way the wind decided to blow.   In an era where snow removal was not as organized and not as advanced as it is today your grandfather probably was trudging through that snow on the way to school for months on end.

The worst part about Detroit, Michigan snow is that it contains a great deal of moisture that comes from the water bucket of the Great Lakes.  This is not Utah where the snow can be thrown around like sugar.  And with the snow going through melting and freezing cycles on a daily basis, it begins to form into something that is packed as tight, some say tighter, than the concrete sidewalks it sits on top of.

That makes for a back breaking experience trying to shovel yourself out of your driveway.  Just ask any local who has stepped outside their home with a shovel in their hand and mentally prepared themselves for what they were about to do.

How a Recent Storm Compares

Any way you slice it your grandfather definitely had a tougher time than you do going to school.

The second worst storm in Detroit history happened in the winter of 1974.  It only dropped 19.2 inches on the city over a two day span to start off the month of December that year but the Detroit snow removal brigade had greatly improved their technology over nearly a century so it something that was more of a nuisance than a crippling storm like its predecessor.

Detroit has seen its fair share of snowstorms that are nothing to laugh at.  The gritty people of Detroit pride themselves on being tough people.  Maybe that is why your grandfather tells the story of his snowstorm every time you see him.  Even if it is the Fourth of July.

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By Brian Connor

Brian Connor has written for many disaster restoration blogs and believes snowstorms are some of the biggest culprits of national disasters.  He has seen his fair share of damage living in the Detroit area.

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