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History of Spring Snowstorms in Detroit - Eastern US Weather Forums

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History of Spring Snowstorms in Detroit


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#1 Michsnowfreak

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Posted 20 March 2010 - 11:50 AM

So spring is now officially here...wanted to dive into some statistics to see how common spring snowstorms are. So I looked at all snowstorms of 3"+, and it looks like you get at least a 3" snow after the first day of spring once every 2 years.

Naturally some sort of accumulating snow is expected every spring, and only on a few rare occasions has this not occurred.

Spring snowstorms of 3"+ (chronological order).....any storms March 20th or later that drop 3"+
March 30/31, 1881...7.7"......3rd biggest of 1880-81 season (fierce blizzard)
April 1/2, 1881.....4.3"......8th biggest of 1880-81 season
March 19/20, 1883...9.5"......biggest of 1882-83 season
May 21/22, 1883.....5.0"......?? unsure of rank in 1882-83 season, but latest measurable on record
April 10/11, 1885...3.5"......?? unsure of rank in 1884-85 season
April 6, 1886......24.5"......biggest of 1885-86 season, biggest on record
March 21, 1888......8.2"......?? unsure of rank in 1887-88 season
March 28/29, 1890...5.4"......biggest of 1889-90 season (thundersnow)
April 7, 1894.......6.0"......?? unsure of rank in 1893-94 season
March 22/23, 1897...5.0"......biggest in 1896-97 season
April 3, 1903.......4.0"......?? unsure of rank in 1902-03 season
April 29, 1909......3.0"......4th? biggest of 1908-09 season
March 26/27, 1913...6.5"......biggest of 12-13 season
March 21/22, 1916...9.5"......biggest of 15-16 season
April 17, 1921......4.5"......4th biggest of 20-21 season
March 20/21, 1922...3.7"......3rd biggest of 21-22 season
April 10, 1923......3.5"......?? unsure of rank in 22-23 season
May 9, 1923.........6.0"......?? unsure of rank in 22-23 season, but biggest may snow on record
March 25/26, 1924...3.0"......4th biggest of 23-24 season
April 2/3, 1926.....5.6"......5th biggest of 25-26 season
March 30, 1928......4.8"......2nd biggest of 27-28 season
March 24/25, 1930...6.0"......3rd biggest of 29-30 season
March 21/22, 1932...7.5"......biggest of 31-32 season
March 25, 1933......6.0"......2nd biggest of 32-33 season
March 26/27, 1934...9.2"......biggest of 33-34 season
March 20, 1940......3.6"......2nd biggest of 39-40 season
March 27, 1940......4.1"......biggest of 39-40 season
April 9/10, 1942....4.2"......biggest of 41-42 season
April 19/20, 1943...3.5"......4th biggest of 42-43 season
March 25, 1947......3.1"......3rd biggest of 46-47 season (gale winds, blizzard...12" near Flint)
March 19, 1951......5.5"......biggest of 50-51 season
March 29, 1954......4.6"......tied for 3rd biggest of 53-54 season (up to 6-8" in parts of area; thundersnow)
March 25/26, 1955...3.8"......biggest of 54-55 season
March 23, 1956......5.3"......biggest of 55-56 season (up to 6-8" in parts of area)
April 16/17, 1961...3.0"......biggest of 60-61 season (up to 4-6" in parts of area)
March 22/23, 1965...5.7"......2nd biggest of 64-65 season
March 20, 1967......3.4"......7th biggest of 66-67 season
March 22/23, 1968...7.7"......biggest of 67-68 season
March 25/26, 1970...4.0"......4th biggest of 69-70 season
April 1/2, 1970.....4.2"......3rd biggest of 69-70 season (amounts to 20" near Flint/Saginaw)
April 2/3, 1975.....3.6"......3rd biggest of 74-75 season (amounts to 20" near Flint/Saginaw)
April 5/6, 1982.....7.4"......3rd biggest of 81-82 season
March 20/21, 1983...7.3"......biggest of 82-83 season
April 17, 1983......3.4"......2nd biggest of 82-83 season (up to 6" in Detroits northern burbs)
March 21/22, 1984...4.5"......3rd biggest of 83-84 season
March 30, 1987......4.4"......4th biggest of 86-87 season
March 21/22, 1992...7.1"......2nd biggest of 91-92 season
April 1/2, 1993.....3.8"......8th biggest of 92-93 season
April 5/6, 1994.....3.7"......4th biggest of 93-94 season
March 19/20, 1996...5.8"......biggest of 95-96 season (up to 14" NE of Detroit)
March 23, 1997......3.0"......3rd biggest of 96-97 season
March 25/26, 2002...4.7"......2nd biggest of 01-02 season (up to 8-12" SE of Detroit)
April 7, 2003.......4.9"......5th biggest of 02-03 season
April 23/24, 2005...4.3"......tied for 5th biggest of 04-05 season (6-10" much of area, up to 15" well N)
March 24/25, 2006...3.0"......5th biggest of 05-06 season
March 21/22, 2008...7.3"......3rd biggest of 07-08 season
March 27/28, 2008...4.0"......7th biggest of 07-08 season
April 5/6, 2009.....7.2"......2nd biggest of 08-09 season


In 129 years of record.....officially at Detroit....
3"+ snowstorms March 20th and later...58 storms (avg 1 every 2.2 years)
4"+ snowstorms March 20th and later...41 storms (avg 1 every 3.1 years)
5"+ snowstorms March 20th and later...26 storms (avg 1 every 5.0 years)
6"+ snowstorms March 20th and later...18 storms (avg 1 every 7.2 years)
7"+ snowstorms March 20th and later...13 storms (avg 1 every 10.0 years)
8"+ snowstorms March 20th and later....5 storms (avg 1 every 16.1 years)
9"+ snowstorms March 20th and later....4 storms (avg 1 every 25.8 years)
10"+ snowstorms March 20th and later...1 storm (rare!!)


20 BIGGEST MARCH 20th and LATER SNOWSTORMS AT DETROIT
24.5" - April 6, 1886
9.5" - March 19/20, 1883
9.5" - March 21/22, 1916
9.2" - March 26/27, 1934
8.2" - March 21, 1888
7.7" - March 30/31, 1881
7.7" - March 22/23, 1968
7.5" - March 21/22, 1932
7.4" - April 5/6, 1982
7.3" - March 20/21, 1983
7.3" - March 21/22, 2008
7.2" - April 5/6, 2009
7.1" - March 21/22, 1992
6.5" - March 26/27, 1913
6.0" - April 7, 1894
6.0" - May 9, 1923
6.0" - March 24/25, 1930
6.0" - March 25, 1933
5.8" - March 19/20, 1996
5.7" - March 22/23, 1965

#2 Hoosier

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Posted 20 March 2010 - 01:00 PM

View PostMichsnowfreak, on 20 March 2010 - 11:50 AM, said:



20 BIGGEST MARCH 20th and LATER SNOWSTORMS AT DETROIT
24.5" - April 6, 1886
9.5" - March 19/20, 1883
9.5" - March 21/22, 1916
9.2" - March 26/27, 1934
8.2" - March 21, 1888
7.7" - March 30/31, 1881
7.7" - March 22/23, 1968
7.5" - March 21/22, 1932
7.4" - April 5/6, 1982
7.3" - March 20/21, 1983
7.3" - March 21/22, 2008
7.2" - April 5/6, 2009
7.1" - March 21/22, 1992
6.5" - March 26/27, 1913
6.0" - April 7, 1894
6.0" - May 9, 1923
6.0" - March 24/25, 1930
6.0" - March 25, 1933
5.8" - March 19/20, 1996
5.7" - March 22/23, 1965




One of those sticks out like a sore thumb. :P

#3 Michsnowfreak

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Posted 20 March 2010 - 01:00 PM

Looking further, its also funny to see how often a snowstorm hugs the spring equinox.

There have been 13 snowstorms of 3"+ between March 19-21st (7 of which were over 7 inches!)

Mar 19/20, 1883...9.5"
Mar 21, 1888......8.2"
Mar 21/22, 1916...9.5"
Mar 20/21, 1922...3.7"
Mar 21/22, 1932...7.5"
Mar 20, 1940......3.6"
Mar 19, 1951......5.5"
Mar 20, 1967......3.4"
Mar 20/21, 1983...7.3"
Mar 21/22, 1984...4.5"
Mar 21/22, 1992...7.1"
Mar 19/20, 1996...5.8"
Mar 21/22, 2008...7.3"

#4 Michsnowfreak

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Posted 20 March 2010 - 01:05 PM

View PostHoosier, on 20 March 2010 - 01:00 PM, said:

One of those sticks out like a sore thumb. :P

Yeah I know...to only see a repeat.

Almost sounds like the 24.5" is a conservative figure as well.

DTX
http://www.crh.noaa....x/1886-1974.php

Just found this link about the storm:
http://www.rochester...ard_of_1886.asp

The biggest snowstorm ever to strike Michigan occurred on Tuesday, April 6, 1886. The days preceding the storm, however, were more in keeping with spring weather rather than winter. Spring activities were already underway with many believing that winter was a distant memory. Only four days prior to the storm, The Rochester Era reported:

"We hail this charming month, for it brings with it freshness, the sweet breath of the springtime and the gentle rains that herald the advent of the early flowers, and the starting grass upon our lawns and meadows…Farm stock, glad to leave the confines of the barn and yard, are straying hither and yon, through field and woodland seeking the tender blades of grass and early vegetation."


On April 3, strong and persistent winds blew throughout the state and lasted until the storm struck. On April 5, the temperature was a chilly 38 degrees. Light snow began to fall shortly after midnight on April 6 and it got progressively heavier during the pre-dawn hours. At 7:00 a.m. the snowfall measured 4.6." At 3:00 p.m., snowfall was at 17.1." When the snow finally stopped falling around 9:00 p.m., there was about 24.5" of snow on the ground. In order to be classified as a blizzard, the snowstorm had to be accompanied by winds of at least 32 mph, low temperatures (temperatures held at 20 to 30 degrees throughout the storm), and visibility of less than 500 feet. The April 6 storm met all criteria.

Twelve-foot high drifts and snow in the street that totaled 10" to 40" were common throughout southeastern Michigan. In Rochester, sidewalks were rendered impassible with "drifts in many places being as high as the fence, or higher…business was virtually suspended."
Newspaper, milk, and coal delivery were halted. Stories of people using crowbars and ice picks to clear the snow and underlying ice from streets in order to travel were common. Railroad cars were abandoned or "thrown" from the tracks. The Air Line Railroad between Rochester and Pontiac was completely blockaded; even two days after the storm, assistance from Romeo was sent for "to enable the hands to clear the track." According to The Rochester Era, "during the day it was impossible to see more than half a block distant by reason of the blinding snow which was filled with fine, sharp particles, cutting the face of the luckless pedestrian and rendering life a burden." Snowplows proved inoperable so each person had to shovel snow from in front of their door or "wait for the sun to do it for him, many doing the latter."

Small towns and farms were less affected by the blizzard than larger cities, which were further removed from food sources and more dependant on electricity or coal delivery. Most farms were self-sufficient enough to wait out the storm. The only major problems occurred when cows and other animals were sent from the barns into the fields to begin grazing, owing to the warm early days in April. Some animals were buried in the snow and died while others remained alive until the farmer dug them out. Also, if the farmer was unable to get to his barn to water and feed his animals, they could also die.

Amazingly, no human deaths were reported due to the blizzard. Since newspaper delivery was halted the day of the blizzard, people had to wait for news concerning it. Interestingly enough, by April 7, the blizzard had passed and was considered "old news." Only a small paragraph was devoted to it in The Rochester Era on April 9. Heavy rainfall and warm temperatures on Monday, April 12 disbursed much of the remaining snow. The days following the blizzard saw temperatures well into the mid-50s and even reached mid-70s by mid-month. Yet, those that lived through that day would always remember it. As the Detroit Weather Log recorded in 1886, "The storm was unprecedented in fierceness, snowfall[,] and blockades in the history of the service and the oldest inhabitants can recall nothing equal to it."

#5 Michsnowfreak

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Posted 20 March 2010 - 04:26 PM

Want to expand on some of my thoughts about the April 6, 1886 snowstorm.

This is speculation as obviously we will never know the truth...but I have a feeling that if this storm occurred today, we would see a storm total snowfall somewhere closer to 28-30" than the reported 24.5"...this would be one of those storms where those faa observers at some airports who like to measure every hour in big storms would report probably 40". And Im not being sarcastic or joking. Heres my reasoning....

This much we know:
~The "average level depth" on the ground at the storms end was 24.5"
~Per numerous sources, snow drifts of 12 feet were common
~Snow in the street on Woodward Avenue ranged from 10-40" deep
~The "rain gague was snowed full and practically useless" by midafternoon
~The storm lasted 20 hours

The snow was a very wet, compacting nature...crowbars and saws were needed to cut paths through the snow...if clearing the snowboard every 6 hours like we do today, it is all but a guarentee adding 6-hour increments together would amount to SEVERAL inches greater than the 24.5" AVG DEPTH as reported after the 20 hour storm of very wet, heavy, compacting snow finished. Snow drifts to 12 feet out of wet snow of "only" 2 feet? This also sounds a bit far-fetched. Then again, this fierce storm sounds much more difficult than most snowfalls for someone to measure, so Im sure even today we would have some difficulty. These are questions that have and always will bug me, but without any pictures, only detailed accounts in newspaper and weather logs, no sure answer will ever be given.

And dont get me wrong, there certainly are some, in fact many, instances were snow depth the following day is the same or maybe 1" less than the storm total in much of winter-time. But in the 1886 instance, "warm ground" prior to the storm, the time of year (April)...and the detailed descriptions of how unbelievably dense the snow was leads me to believe that 24.5" depth following the spring storm is too low for a total storm snowfall.

#6 beavis1729

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Posted 20 March 2010 - 09:42 PM

Wow...that April 1886 storm in Detriot was amazing. And I agree with your commentary that it could have actually been a greater snowfall than was officially reported.

Also, it's worth noting that the April 1982 snowfall was light and fluffy, at least in Chicago. A record low of 7F was set after the storm, which is by far (IMO) the most impressive record low temperature in the history of Chicago weather records. Most record lows on the days surrounding this date are near 18-20F. The 7F sticks out like a sore thumb!! :snowman:

#7 Michsnowfreak

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Posted 20 March 2010 - 11:00 PM

View Postbeavis1729, on 20 March 2010 - 09:42 PM, said:

Wow...that April 1886 storm in Detriot was amazing. And I agree with your commentary that it could have actually been a greater snowfall than was officially reported.

Also, it's worth noting that the April 1982 snowfall was light and fluffy, at least in Chicago. A record low of 7F was set after the storm, which is by far (IMO) the most impressive record low temperature in the history of Chicago weather records. Most record lows on the days surrounding this date are near 18-20F. The 7F sticks out like a sore thumb!! :snowman:

Im sure it was light and fluffy here as well...precip of 0.50", snow of 7.4". So 15-1 ratio. Came after a very harsh winter.

I just looked up the hourly weather...this probably gets the award for coldest April snowstorm

APRIL 5, 1982
06pm: 26F, Light snow, vis 0.8 mi
07pm: 24F, Snow, vis 0.5 mi
08pm: 24F, Snow, vis 0.5 mi
09pm: 24F, Snow, vis 0.5 mi
10pm: 23F, Snow, vis 0.5 mi
11pm: 24F, Snow, vis 0.5 mi

APRIL 6, 1982
12am: 24F, Snow, vis 0.5 mi
01am: 22F, Snow, vis 0.5 mi
02am: 20F, Light Snow, vis 0.8 mi
03am: 21F, Light Snow, vis 0.5 mi
04am: 22F, Light Snow, vis 2.0 mi
05am: 21F, Light Snow, vis 0.8 mi
06am: 21F, Light Snow, vis 1.0 mi
07am: 22F, Light Snow, vis 5.0 mi
08am: 22F, Light Snow, vis 10.5 mi
09am: 23F, Light Snow, vis 4.0 mi
10am: 23F, Light Snow, vis 4.0 mi
11am: 24F, Blowing Snow, vis 6.0 mi

#8 Chicago WX

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Posted 20 March 2010 - 11:51 PM

For Chicago, past March 20th, it pretty much begins and ends here:

March 25-26, 1970...14.3"
April 1-2, 1970...10.7"

Remarkably, for the time of the year, the two closest 10"+ snowstorms in Chicago's recorded snowfall history.

#9 Michsnowfreak

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Posted 20 March 2010 - 11:58 PM

View PostChicago WX, on 20 March 2010 - 11:51 PM, said:

For Chicago, past March 20th, it pretty much begins and ends here:

March 25-26, 1970...14.3"
April 1-2, 1970...10.7"

Remarkably, for the time of the year, the two closest 10"+ snowstorms in Chicago's recorded snowfall history.

wow thats crazy. Any idea what the storm track was? DTW got 4.0" and 4.2" from the 2 storms, plus I think some rain with both.

#10 Hoosier

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Posted 20 March 2010 - 11:58 PM

View PostChicago WX, on 20 March 2010 - 11:51 PM, said:

For Chicago, past March 20th, it pretty much begins and ends here:

March 25-26, 1970...14.3"
April 1-2, 1970...10.7"

Remarkably, for the time of the year, the two closest 10"+ snowstorms in Chicago's recorded snowfall history.




Agree...that is nuts to get 2 storms like that a week apart (and I believe there were significantly higher totals around the area in both events) at any point in wintr let alone late March/early April.

#11 Chicago WX

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Posted 21 March 2010 - 12:07 AM

View PostMichsnowfreak, on 20 March 2010 - 11:58 PM, said:

wow thats crazy. Any idea what the storm track was? DTW got 4.0" and 4.2" from the 2 storms, plus I think some rain with both.


I'm not sure on the storm track.

LAF got shut out of the first storm, but picked up 3.0" with the April storm (with rain).

#12 Chicago WX

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Posted 21 March 2010 - 12:12 AM

View PostHoosier, on 20 March 2010 - 11:58 PM, said:

Agree...that is nuts to get 2 storms like that a week apart (and I believe there were significantly higher totals around the area in both events) at any point in wintr let alone late March/early April.


Yeah, it's COOP data so who really knows, but for instance Peotone recorded 15.2" with the late March 1970 storm.

#13 Chicago WX

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Posted 21 March 2010 - 12:27 AM

A couple other 10"+ snowstorms post-March 20 for Chicago:

March 23-24, 1897...10.0"
March 30-31, 1926...12.6"
March 25-26, 1930...19.2" (which was the largest snowstorm on record for Chicago until January 26-27, 1967 happened).

#14 Trent

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Posted 21 March 2010 - 08:22 AM

One of our largest was actually just a few years ago. This occurred just 36 hours after a high temperature of 80 degrees.

Attached File  Eastersnow1.PNG (66.8K)
Number of downloads: 1

#15 Michsnowfreak

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Posted 21 March 2010 - 10:16 AM

View PostChicago WX, on 21 March 2010 - 12:27 AM, said:

A couple other 10"+ snowstorms post-March 20 for Chicago:

March 23-24, 1897...10.0"
March 30-31, 1926...12.6"
March 25-26, 1930...19.2" (which was the largest snowstorm on record for Chicago until January 26-27, 1967 happened).

The March 23/24 event gave Detroit 5.0", which actually ended up the biggest snowstorm that winter (winter total 34.7")

Late March into early April 1926 was a literal spring snow-blitz, so Im unsure of how to separate things into separate systems...all I know is April 2/3 (5.6") was 1 storm system. My guess would be a 2.4" fall on Mar 31/Apr 1 quickly followed by 5.6" on Apr 2/3 with MAYBE a 24-hour break?
3/28: 0.3"
3/29: 0.6"
3/31: 0.3"
4/01: 2.1"
4/02: 1.4"
4/03: 4.2"
4/04: 0.3"

And as mentioned, Detroit got 6.0" with the 1930 storm.

Didnt chicago cash in as well with the March 26/27, 1934 storm?

#16 Michsnowfreak

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Posted 21 March 2010 - 10:17 AM

View PostTrent, on 21 March 2010 - 08:22 AM, said:

One of our largest was actually just a few years ago. This occurred just 36 hours after a high temperature of 80 degrees.

Attachment Eastersnow1.PNG

I remember that...it snow showered, squalled, and flurried near constantly here that entire Easter weekend, not to mention we were below freezing for 5 days straight, but the daily dustings amounted to a total of only about 2 inches.

#17 Michsnowfreak

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Posted 21 March 2010 - 11:26 AM

Heres a post with all the links..

April 1886 unfathonable snowstorm

http://www.crh.noaa....x/1886-1974.php

http://www.rochester...ard_of_1886.asp

As for the incredible May 9, 1923 snowstorm:
http://www.crh.noaa....tx/talesmay.php

The snow ended by the evening in Detroit and at 800 pm, six
inches was reported on the ground. The story was even more
fantastic as one traveled west and north of Detroit across
Southeast Lower Michigan. Generally, six to nine inches fell
west to the Ann Arbor area, northwest through Howell, north
across Pontiac and northeast up to Port Huron. Even more
incredible, snow depths of around a foot were reported at Flint
and Lansing north into the Saginaw Valley.


Found this about snow in Minneapolis in May
http://climate.umn.e..._snowstorms.htm

This story from DTX talks about many different aspects (tornadoes to snow) of Detroits weather in May
http://www.crh.noaa....tx/tales597.php

This is all that is written about the May 21/22, 1883 event
The May 21st-22nd, 1883 snowstorm by the date alone sounds almost unbelievable!
Very little was written in the archaic Detroit weather records about the storm at
the time. In fact, the snowstorm was not confirmed until much later (1904), since
officially continuous snowfall records did not start until 1885. The following is
from the official observation form...

May 21, 1883
Rain began at 900am. Snow from 250pm to 910pm. Hail 934am to
1005am and 110pm. Strong wind reaching 36 mph from the North.
Temp from 32.5 to 46.0. Baro rising.



May 22, 1883
Hail ended during the night. Snow began during the night. Rain and
snow ended 1005am. Northerly wind reaching 28 miles. Temp from
32.5 to 41.0 Snowfall estimated by Inspector Conger to have been
5.0 in - on 21st&22nd (This entry made April 28, 1904 - CDC.J)

The snowfall was split between the two days and recorded as 2.3 inches on the
21st and 2.7 inches on the 22nd. While hail was a likelihood, especially in the
afternoon on the 21st as the colder air moved in, I suspect the hail recorded
overnight into the 22nd could have well been sleet. One may also wonder with
such cold air advected into the region at the surface and aloft in late May, if
thundersnow (sleet/hail) didn't also occur somewhere over Southeast Lower
Michigan, especially with accumulating snow.

#18 Chicago WX

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Posted 21 March 2010 - 12:07 PM

View PostMichsnowfreak, on 21 March 2010 - 10:16 AM, said:

Didnt chicago cash in as well with the March 26/27, 1934 storm?


EDIT: I'm not sure on the exact amount, but the MDW COOP reported 3.7" from that storm.

#19 Michsnowfreak

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Posted 21 March 2010 - 12:21 PM

View PostChicago WX, on 21 March 2010 - 12:07 PM, said:

EDIT: I'm not sure on the exact amount, but the MDW COOP reported 3.7" from that storm.

Oh I mustve been thinking about the 1930 storm then....I thought they got slammed as did Detroit (9.2")

#20 Harry

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Posted 21 March 2010 - 01:52 PM

View PostMichsnowfreak, on 20 March 2010 - 11:58 PM, said:

wow thats crazy. Any idea what the storm track was? DTW got 4.0" and 4.2" from the 2 storms, plus I think some rain with both.


Storm 1 was 7-10 out this way..
Storm 2 was 12 to 16 out this way.

Also some snow on the 28th of March and again on April 11th.





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