Old man winter is on a tear this year, with frigid temperatures, wicked winds, and daily doses of snow. Early in the season, dredging equipment was locked into the Harbor Springs Municipal Marina due to ice cover and dangerously cold weather. As snow continues to pile and drift throughout northern Michigan, open waters, warmer days, and sunshine seem like they may never arrive. (Harbor Light Newspaper photo/Mark Flemming)
Christina Rohn Special to Harbor Light
By Christina Rohn, Special to Harbor Light Newspaper
It has been one of the coldest winters the Petoskey/Harbor Springs area has experienced in more than 10 years.
According to Jeff Lutz, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Gaylord, the closest comparison he could find to this season's average highs was from the 2000-01 season.
Lutz reports that according to data from the Petoskey Wastewater Treatment Plant, the average high for December 2013 was 26.7 degrees, and 21.3 degrees for January 2014.
In comparison, the average high in December of 2000 was 24.8 degrees, and 30.5 degrees for January 2001.
"We've probably had the coldest consecutive December, January that we've had in 10 to 15 years," Lutz said.
As a result of the frigid temperatures, residents of the area have also been experiencing a hefty amount of snow.
According to data from North Central Michigan College, as of Monday, Petoskey had received 123 inches of snowfall.
Lutz said this is well beyond the average snowfall for this time of year - 76.1 inches.
In fact, Petoskey has already surpassed its seasonal snowfall average of 122.8 inches.
Lutz said, although the Petoskey area is ahead of its seasonal average, it is slightly behind last year's season total of 137.1 inches.
"Last year was an OK winter when it came down to it, but we received a lot more snow in January, February and March than we typically would," he said.
Lutz said the area might not have a record-breaking season as far as snowfall is concerned, but he says there's a good chance the area will surpass last season's totals.
"Right now we're only 14 inches below last season, and we haven't gone through February, March and April yet," he said. "We could still end up with a fair amount of snow."
In Harbor Springs, area ski hills are reporting more than 100-inches of snowfall, and up to 76-inches of base (Squaw Valley, California has only seen 59-inches of snowfall and currently has a 19-inch base).
In comparison, Lutz reports that some of the highest seasonal snowfall totals in northwest Michigan have come from the National Weather Service office in Gaylord - with 185 inches during the 2006-07 season, and 181 inches during the 2003-04 season.
"Petoskey probably won't get to that point, but it's not out of the question," he said.
Lutz said there are no major storm systems on the horizon for the Petoskey/Harbor Springs area, but he says they are expecting below normal temperatures and above average precipitation during the next two weeks.
"We'll probably end up with a couple inches a day for a while," he said. "For the most part, it's not going to stop over the next two weeks.
"If you do see a break, you're going to be the lucky one."
As a response to the extreme conditions, area residents have been rushing to local hardware stores and stocking up on snow-removal products.
Rebecca Leitelt, store manager for Meyer Ace Hardware on U.S. 31 North, said business has been booming.
"We sold over 11 snow blowers on Saturday - that's probably a record for us in the last eight years," she said. "We've completely sold out."
Leitelt said many hardware stores in the area are having a difficult time getting snow blowers back in stock because the companies that manufacture them have already begun shifting their efforts toward manufacturing lawnmowers.
"(Snow blowers) are very limited right now ... we can't get them," she said. "I think most businesses in Petoskey are in the same boat."
In addition to snow blower sales, Leitelt said other snow and ice removal products are flying off the shelves, including: shovels, sleds, roof rakes and roof salts.
"Shovels are selling more than anything - the snow's been quite heavy and they've been breaking a lot," she said. "Also, roof rakes are huge right now because there's a lot of accumulation on people's roofs."
Leitelt said area residents are also purchasing items to combat the subzero temperatures.
"People have been requesting a lot of face masks and hand warmers," she said. "We've also been having trouble keeping heaters in stock.
"The whole Midwest has been so much colder than normal."
Leitelt said she believes people are having a difficult time with these conditions because the area has experienced mild winters during the last several years.
"This really is a normal northern Michigan winter, but we've been spoiled the last three years," she said. "Now that we have so much snow, people seem lost and don't know what to do with it."
Christina Rohn is a freelance writer and occasional contributor to the Harbor Light Newspaper.)