ANNUAL CLIMATE SUMMARY FOR FLINT - 2003
(ALSO INCLUDES SAGINAW VALLEY/THUMB REGION)

Written by: William R. Deedler, Weather Historian
February 9th, 2004
  • PREDOMINANTLY BELOW NORMAL TEMPERATURES FIRST HALF OF 2003 AND ABOVE NORMAL SECOND HALF LEADS TO A NEAR NORMAL YEAR AT FLINT
  • THIRD YEAR IN A ROW THE SAGINAW VALLEY RANKS AMONG THE DRIEST OF YEARS - ONE HAS TO GO BACK TO THE LATE 1970'S TO FIND COMPARABLE YEARS

The weather of 2003 will be remembered as quite volatile and relatively cool across much of Southeast Lower Michigan. Both Detroit's and Saginaw's annual temperature averaged below normal (49.0/-0.9 and 45.9/-1.1, respectively), yet Flint averaged just a bit above normal at 47.2/+0.4. One explanation for the above normal departure may be that the new normals (1970-2000) for Detroit rose and thus gave more of a negative departure. However Flint's normals held steady, which would give less of a below normal departure (or in this case, an above normal departure). When comparing actual temperature averages across the board, Flint /47.2/ places nicely between Saginaw's and Detroit's annual averages (49.0-47.2-45.9).

Normal to above normal precipitation (rain/snow) patterns favored the region from around Detroit south to the Ohio Border. This was brought about by a unusually persistent Southern Great Lakes/Northern Ohio Valley storm track that did not cool down until late summer. This was not the case, however, from Flint northward into the Saginaw Valley and Thumb Region where annual precipitation totals were considerably lower, like the past few years.

HOW DRY WE ARE

For the third year in an row, rainfall totals for Saginaw at Tri Cities Airport fell well below normal. To find three comparable consecutive years of dryness, one has to look back the late 1970s: 1977, 1978 and 1979. Interestingly, this is just one more in a list of several items mentioned in past In-House Studies that has resembled that time period. Not only were these years similar in consecutive lack of rainfall but also in the general trend (meaning: the first of the three years was the wettest with the following two, the driest). It might be worthy (and somewhat hopeful) to note that during the year following /1980/, annual precipitation was above normal at Saginaw with 33.60 inches. It certainly would help alleviate that nearly two feet accumulative deficit of the past three years.

                           SAGINAW
__________________________________________________________________________
YEAR     ANNUAL PRECIPITATION      Year     ANNUAL PRECIPITATION    NORMAL
__________________________________________________________________________

2001          26.63                1977          29.32              31.61
2002          22.52                1978          24.03              31.61
2003          23.22                1979          21.33              31.61
-------------------------------------------------------------------------
TOTAL (3 yr)  72.37                              74.68              94.83
DEPARTURE    -22.46                             -20.15
__________________________________________________________________________

Reviewing the annual rainfall at Saginaw for the past century, I was hard pressed to find three consecutive years that were as dry as the past three. While the early to mid 1960s contained some notably dry years, they weren't consecutive. There were, however, several years during the 1930s that were exceptionally dry. The dryness and resulting widespread drought over much of the Heartland during the 1930s was an anomaly in itself, known as the "Dust Bowl" Days. In fact, four out of the top six driest years in Saginaw occurred during the 1930s. Note also that both 2002 and 2003, along with 1978 and 1979 are among the top 20 driest years.

It also should be noted that the Great Lake water levels were also well below average (or chart datum) during parts of the 1930s, the early to mid 1960s and now again, in the early 2000's. The Great Lake levels are, however, to a large extent detirmined by snow and rainfall across the Upper Great Lakes and adjoining Southern Canada.

Both Flint and Saginaw saw an inverse in monthly temperature departures between the first half of the year and second half. Overall, the first half of 2003 averaged colder than normal, while the second half averaged warmer than normal. Frequent volatility in the weather was well represented by way of sharply changing temperatures, more severe weather (and warnings) and frequent snowstorms and cold during the winter of 2002-03, where we will begin...

One of the coldest and snowiest winters in recent years affected extreme Southeast Lower Michigan from the Detroit Metropolitan area south to to the Ohio border, where the bulk of snow fell. This was due to a persistent storm track across the Northern Ohio Valley. While being cold across the Flint area north into the Saginaw Valley and Thumb Region, snowfall totalled just a bit above normal at Flint (52.1"/+3.8). Snowfall was actually below normal, for the most part, further north in the Saginaw Valley and Thumb Region. In that region, snowfalls ranged from just slightly below normal at Saginaw (42.4"/-2.1), to well below normal in portions of the Thumb Region with as low as 25" to 35".

January's precipitation exemplified the storm track being south of this region, with Flint placing in second place for the driest January on record and fourth place for the driest month on record! Only .26 of an inch was recorded at Flint during the month and just a half an inch /.50/ was totaled at Saginaw. Extreme cold hit the region late January and resulted in tying an old record low of -11 on the 27th at Flint, set first in way back in 1943. Two -9 readings were also registered in February (11/26th) and this helped place February as the 13th coldest February on record in Flint. Snowfalls picked up during February and March bringing Flint's season snowfall to just above normal.

While the spring into the summer period averaged comfortably cool, the severe weather season proved to be quite active as several intrusive fronts instigated the action. In fact, the 2003 severe weather season contained the most severe weather events on record, along with the second most warnings issued, since the NWS White Lake's inception in 1994. June 8th marked the 50th /1953/ anniversary of the devastating F5 Flint-Beecher Tornado. Ironically, Mother Nature marked the date again by the eruption of severe weather which produced a tornado not too far from the location of the Flint-Beecher tornado.

Overall, autumn into early winter's weather was rather pleasant but contained frequent, sharply fluctuating temperatures. The period was occasionally marred by intense storm centers, the most notable being the classic "Storm of November" on the 12-13th. This storm's fierce wind brought back memories of even worse storms that have assaulted the Great Lakes in the past. This deep and intense low pressure system tracked east near the Straights of Mackinaw into the Eastern Great Lakes. The storm's central pressure cratered to 978 MB /28.90"/ early on the 13th as it approached Quebec. Howling winds gusted to between 50 and 70 mph across the area as Lake Huron buoys reported huge waves up to 25 feet high!

Unlike the previous winter, the Winter of 2003-04 got off to a slow start in December as both cold and snow were somewhat deficit.

                                   F L I N T
                                 2   0   0   3
------------------------------------------------------------------------
      Temps/Depart   Precip/Depart   Snow/Depart   Snow Seas/Depart
________________________________________________________________________
  Jan  19.2/-2.1       0.26/-1.31     8.4/+2.0
  Feb  20.5/-3.3       0.60/-0.75    12.5/+9.9
  Mar  33.4/-0.3       1.71/-0.51    12.6/+1.1
  Apr  45.8/+0.4       2.94/-0.19     3.6/+3.3         52.1/+3.8
  May  55.3/-1.8       3.35/+0.61
  Jun  64.6/-1.6       2.15/-0.92
  Jul  70.8/+0.2       1.70/-1.41
  Aug  70.9/+2.4       3.79/+0.36
  Sep  61.8/+1.1       3.16/-0.60
  Oct  49.6/+0.4       2.00/-0.34
  Nov  42.5/+4.4       5.66/+3.01     2.5/-1.0
  Dec  32.1/+5.4       2.34/+0.16    10.3/-1.3
       ---------       ----------
       47.2/+0.4      29.66/-1.95
_______________________________________________________________________

                                 S A G I N A W
                                 2   0   0   3
------------------------------------------------------------------------
      Temps/Depart   Precip/Depart   Snow/Depart   Snow Seas/Depart
________________________________________________________________________
  Jan  18.3/-5.8       0.50/-1.27     8.8/-3.0
  Feb  18.6/-5.2       0.50/-1.07     7.2/-1.1
  Mar  30.9/-2.6       2.35/-0.07    11.5/+3.5
  Apr  44.8/-0.7       1.71/-1.11     5.1/+0.2         42.4/-2.1
  May  53.7/-3.9       3.63/+0.74
  Jun  64.5/-2.3       2.10/-0.96
  Jul  69.4/+0.5       2.64/+0.14
  Aug  69.5/+0.8       1.00/-2.38
  Sep  61.0/+0.3       1.76/-2.19
  Oct  49.1/-0.4       0.98/-1.51       T/-0.2
  Nov  40.5/+2.5       4.54/+1.89     0.3/-3.5
  Dec  30.3/+3.3       1.51/-0.60    12.4/+2.4
       ---------       ----------
       45.9/-0.9      23.22/-8.39
_______________________________________________________________________

JANUARY 2003

  • EXTREMELY DRY JANUARY PLACES SECOND FOR DRIEST JANUARY, FOURTH FOR DRIEST MONTH AND 18TH FOR COLDEST JANUARY
Graph of daily temperature and precipitation for January 2003

January's average temperature of 19.2 degrees was more than two degrees /2.1/ below the norm of 21.3 and placed as 18th coldest January on record (tying January of 1961). The last time a January was as cold or colder than January 2003 was back in 1994, when the temperature averaged a frigid 13.8 degrees (3rd coldest Jan on record).

Not only was the month cold, it was unseasonably dry with just over a quarter of an inch /.26/ of total precipitation falling, which was a huge 1.31 below normal. This made it the second driest January on record and the fourth driest month on record. The driest January (and month) on record occurred back in 1945 when a meager .07" fell. Saginaw saw more precipitation than Flint but still well below normal with a half inch falling /.50/, which was 1.27 below normal. Since just .26" fell in Flint during January, snowfall was also lacking with 8.4" falling. This was 4.8" below the normal snowfall /13.2/. Snowfall in Saginaw was also below normal with 8.8" falling compared to the 11.8 normal.

The average temperature during the first nine days was over 28 degrees, which was better than six degrees above normal. The passage of a cold front late on the 9th heralded a distinctive change in the upper wind pattern similar to that seen the first half of December. A strong and persistent deep cold upper trough dominated the Great Lakes from the 10th right through the rest of the month. The temperature fell to -11 on the 27th and this tied the old record low set first back in 1943. Saginaw's low of -5 was not a record /-12/ for the date


January 2003 observations for Flint:
Text or Graphic

FEBRUARY 2003

  • 13TH COLDEST FEBRUARY ALONG WITH THE 18TH SNOWIEST FEBRUARY ON RECORD
Graph of daily temperature and precipitation for February 2003

As was the case in January, temperatures during February also averaged below normal. With an average temperature of 20.5 degrees, February averaged 3.3 degrees below normal. Also, if the cold seemed to hang around for long durations with only a few notable breaks, you are right. In the midst of a nearly continuous string of cold days, very brief and relatively balmy periods surfaced each month, and mainly overnight. With the exception of six days, about 90 percent of the time during this past January and February the temperature held below 40 degrees. In addition, during those two months, there were 45 days where the high temperatures remained at freezing or below.

February's weather actually started out misleading, with temperatures rising into the 30s and 40s (and 49 degrees at that on the 4th). After that brief warm spell, temperatures dove to below or well below normal from the 5th right through the 18th. The depth of the cold came in the form of a record low on the 11th when the temperature plummeted to -9. Saginaw fell to -4 on the 10th and -6 on the 11th but neither low was a record. Late on the 11th and early on the 12th, a swiftly moving arctic front accompanied by snow squalls and followed by very strong winds briefly created white-out conditions. Strong wind gusts to 44 mph blew through the area around the midnight hour.

Snowfalls during the month were rather frequent but mainly light and somewhat spotty. A few heavier snowfalls occurred on the 11th /3.7"/ and the 22nd /2.8"/. Snowfall for the month /12.5"/ came in above normal /+3.1/, while precipitation only totaled .60", making February the 18th snowiest while being the 12th driest February.

Much colder weather moved in for the 24th-27th. A high temperature of just 15 on the 25th was the coldest high ever recorded for the date. Overnight lows fell to: -4/25th, -9/26th and -2/27th - none of which were record lows.


February 2003 observations for Flint:
Text or Graphic

MARCH 2003

  • MARCH LIVES UP TO ITS WILD AND CHANGEABLE REPUTATION AS A COLD LION OPENED THE MONTH AND RETURNED BRIEFLY FOR THE CLOSE
Graph of daily temperature and precipitation for March 2003

March certainly lived up to its changeable reputation with everything from bitter cold and snow, to warm sunny days, to severe thunderstorms. Some of the greatest below normal temperature departures of the "winter" occurred during the first ten days of the meteorological spring month of March. Wave after wave of arctic air sailed south from northern Canada and engulfed the Great Lakes during this period. At night was the most bitter cold, under clear skies and a deep snow cover, temperatures plunged into the teens, single digits and even below zero. A low of -11 on the 3rd blew away a 50 year old record of -6 set in 1943! By the 10th, the average temperature of just 17.1 degrees came in 12.6 degrees below the normal!

Late on the 4th into the 5th, a snowstorm blanketed the region with snowfall of six to eight inches from Southern Genesee County, east into Lapeer. Well over six inches /6.6/ of snow was measured at Flint. Further north, mainly four to six inches of snow fell across the Saginaw Valley into the Thumb region. Another low pressure tracking through the Ohio Valley tossed snow north into the area late on the 12th into the 13th, with generally two to four inches falling (Flint reported 4.4").

Above normal temperatures surfaced by the 15th which lasted through the 28th. Readings pushed well into the 50s and 60s, with even a 70 degree reading on St Patrick's Day, and then again, on the 24th which broke the old record /69/.

A deep storm center and strong cold front on the 28th spawned a line of mainly strong thunderstorms by evening with a biting northwest wind in their wake. Temperatures plummeted down into the 30s by the 29th along with scattered flurries. In spite of all the meteorological twist and turns during March, when the month drew to a close, it basically ended the way it began, cold.


March 2003 observations for Flint:
Text or Graphic

APRIL 2003

  • NEAR NORMAL TEMPERATURE MONTH WAS ANYTHING BUT WORST ICE STORM IN YEARS ALONG WITH THE 12TH SNOWIEST APRIL.
Graph of daily temperature and precipitation for April 2003

The long, cold winter of 2002-03 was not going to give up easily as yet another Arctic blast blew into the region during the first week of April. A strong Arctic front pushed its way south across Southeast Lower Michigan on the 3rd and the resulting temperature extremes over the area were quite dramatic and impressive. While lower to mid 30s were commonplace across the Saginaw Valley and Thumb Region, temperatures at the same time were into the 70s to near 80 in Lenawee and Monroe counties. A very moist storm center moved northeast along it and produced thunderstorms, very heavy rain, a dangerous coating of freezing rain which led to a significant icing event on the 3rd/4th over most of Southeast Lower Michigan. General reports of ice from a 1/4 to 1/2" were relayed to the NWS with isolated reports of ice up to an inch thick! Later on the 5th, sleet and snow followed the ice as colder air filtered in. Some areas around Flint north into the Saginaw Valley and Thumb Region reported up to a inch or two of sleet/snow on top of the ice. It was stated that close to a half-million customers across Southeast Lower Michigan lost power and was the worst ice storm since 1976 as far as customer power outage.

Interestingly, even though Flint's monthly snowfall of just 3.6", it still made it the 12th snowiest April on record - after a winter that was the 17th snowiest. You can read more about the winter of 2002-03. A high temperature of only 32/5th and 33/8th were the coldest April 5th/8th ever recorded in Flint.

Warmer weather returned mid month when the temperature surged to 85 degrees on the 15th. This 85 superseded the old record of 84 set, ironically, just last year in 2002. In addition, a high temperature of 79 degrees on the 14th broke the old record of 76 set back in 1954. An approaching strong cold front churned up scattered severe thunderstorms on Easter afternoon. Many reports of hail and high winds were received with the passage of these storms.


April 2003 observations for Flint:
Text or Graphic

MAY 2003

  • A COOL AND WET MAY BUT DID NOT PLACE IN THE TOP 20 COOLEST/WETTEST
Graph of daily temperature and precipitation for May 2003

The dominant, cool upper air pattern since October continued to generally hold in place with just some occasional breakdowns and seasonal moderation. Like May 2002, this May also proved to be cool. But unlike last May, this May worsened with time rather than improve. While the month was cool and a bit wet, it still did not place in the top 20 coolest nor wettest.

The month opened with a round of strong storms with very heavy downpours. Rainfall amounts of well over an inch were reported and Flint Bishop Airport recorded 1.39 inches, which was over 40 percent of the monthly total. A wind gust of 44 mph was also clocked at the airport as the strongest of storms moved through on the 1st. Later in the week, on the evening of the 5th, strong to severe storms pushed across the region. The storms contained damaging winds (estimated up to 70 mph) and large hail up to an inch in diameter.

Behind a deep low pressure on the 11th, very strong winds blew across the entire region with winds gusting to 43 mph at Flint Bishop Airport and 52 mph at Tri Cities Airport. The very strong wind gusts resulted in scattered downed tree branches and power outages. After the storms, the upper winds shifted to the more familiar northwest flow of the recent past through the end of May, bringing below normal temperatures. Temperatures during Memorial Weekend were also unseasonably cool with readings in the 50s and 60s. Then, the following weekend /Sat-31st/, the weather was even worse as an unusually intense and cool low pressure system for late may tracked across the area. The storm contained weather more typical of late March than late May. It was one cold, miserable day as most temperatures hovered in the mid 40s to near 50 as a strong northeast wind blew off Lake Huron. In the coldest and bleakest of weather, temperatures hovered in the upper 30s /Bad Axe/ to lower 40s /Port Hope/ during the afternoon (keep in mind, the normal hi/lo is 71/49).


May 2003 observations for Flint:
Text or Graphic

JUNE 2003

  • ANOTHER COOL MONTH, DESPITE WARMTH LATE IN THE MONTH, WITH JUNE PLACING 12TH FOR COOLEST JUNE ON RECORD
  • SEVERE WEATHER MAKES A RETURN VISIT FOR THE 50TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE FLINT/BEECHER TORNADO
Graph of daily temperature and precipitation for June 2003

The first three weeks of June were, again, abnormally cool across Southeast Lower Michigan. By the end of the first week, temperatures across the area averaged close to five degrees below normal with an average temperature just under 59 degrees (keep in mind, the coldest June is still warmer with an average temperature of 60.1). Not only was it unseasonably cool the first week, but there was limited June sunshine. An unusually intense low pressure system exited the region at the month's open. In its wake lows dipped into the 30s to near 40. Some scattered light patchy frost was reported across interior areas of the Saginaw Valley and Thumb Region, south into Flint and Lapeer. The low temperature of 37 degrees at Saginaw tied the record low of 37 set first in 1993.

Strong to severe thunderstorms with very heavy rain, strong winds and large hail blew into the Saginaw Valley, Thumb Region and Flint areas late in the afternoon of the 8th (and on the 50th anniversary of the devastating Flint-Beecher tornado). Several reports of high winds and large hail were received as these storms trekked across the region. Much of the damage was noted in southern Genesee County where a tornado touched down 5 miles north of Fenton and moved to 3 miles southwest of Grand Blanc. The storm was rated a F1 at its max /100-110 mph/ and had a damage path about 3 miles long. Another weaker /F0/ twister touched down briefly on the west side of the city of Lapeer but no damage was noted.

Even by the end of the third week, with an average temperature of 61.8 degrees, June 2003 would have placed fourth for coldest June. Although cool for June, there were still plenty of refreshingly delightful sunny days during the second and third week. Things changed, however, during the fourth week when temperature pushed well up into the 80s and 90s (high for the month of 91 on the 25th). With the return of heat and humidity, so came the storms. Isolated severe thunderstorms with strong winds and hail rolled through on the 28-29th. Wind damage was reported in Essexville in Bay County. The heat late in the month helped modify the average temperature to 64.6 (or just 1.6 below normal) but this still placed the month in 12th place for coolest June.


June 2003 observations for Flint:
Text or Graphic

JULY 2003

  • A RATHER PLEASANT JULY, WHAT A DIFFERENCE A YEAR MAKES,
Graph of daily temperature and precipitation for July 2003

July of 2003 went down as a rather pleasant month across the region with temperatures ranging from near normal at Flint to nearly two degrees below normal /-1.8/ at Saginaw. The number of nineties for the month was just below normal with two (91 on the 3rd and 90 on the 4th ); on average we feel three.

The most notable item about July 2003 is its comparison to last July (2002). Last July was the 4th warmest July on record in Flint with an average temperature of 75.0 /+4.4/ (compared to the 70.8 /+.2/ this July). In addition, 13 ninety degree days were counted up in July 2002 alone (compared to this year's two). A rather cool airmass did settle over the region on the 19th. A low of 48 at Flint broke the rather "warm" record low for July of 50 set back in 1984. Beforehand, this had been the highest record low of July

The storm tracks remained active through July as various fronts spawned several episodes of showers and thunderstorms. On July 4th, a strong squall line roared into the region during the forenoon hours and some isolated reports of high winds were received south of Flint at Linden. Another localized severe weather event took place in Midland and Saginaw on the afternoon of the 17th. Isolated severe storms produced hail and high winds around Coleman and nickel size hail in Freeland. The most extensive severe weather event took place on the 21st and these storms were accompanied by numerous reports of large hail, strong damaging winds and torrential rains.

Flint was actually one of the drier areas in July with only 1.70 inches. Farther north around Saginaw, 2.64 inches fell, and finally near the Saginaw Bay, near the small town of Akron, 5.36" of rain was measured.


July 2003 observations for Flint:
Text or Graphic

AUGUST 2003

  • A TALE OF TWO AUGUST CLIMATES IN SOUTHEAST MICHIGAN: DRY NORTH, WET SOUTH
Graph of daily temperature and precipitation for August 2003

Overall, warmer temperatures visited the region late this summer with August being the warmest month of the summer at both Flint and Saginaw. The warmest of August's weather occurred mid-late month with high temperatures pushing well into the 80s almost daily, which resulted 2.4 degrees above normal for the month.

The most notable weather feature of August was the considerably drier weather across the Saginaw Valley and Thumb region when compared to Flint and Detroit. The rainfall total of just one inch /1.00/ at Saginaw pales in comparison to the 3.79" that fell in Flint and the 4.37" at Detroit. The one inch total at Saginaw made August 2003 the 8th driest August on record at Saginaw, while at the same time the 3.79" at Flint ranked as the 17th wettest!

August of 2003 also proved to be rather active in terms of thunderstorm days in Flint. There were eight days during the month when thunderstorms were reported (normally about six days contain storms). The wettest week was seen at both cities from the 1st - 8th. Flint totaled up just shy of two inches /1.99/ through the 8th, while Saginaw tipped the rain bucket at just under three quarters /.73/ of an inch. The rainfall that week was the result of a slow moving pattern, an upper low that just meandered through the Great Lakes. The month opened with the first in a parade of fronts pushing across the region. This initial front was the strongest of the bunch and created several storms, some severe, with locally damaging winds, large hail and scattered torrential downpours. Much of the severe storm activity occurred in Genesee, Lapeer, Shiawassee and Huron counties. Some hail reports as large as golf balls were received at Swartz Creek and Bad Axe, while one inch hail was observed in Montrose.

Severe storms returned with a vengeance later in the month on the 21st. A line of strong to severe storms literally blossomed within a hour over Southern Lower Michigan as a strong cold front plowed into an extremely unstable air mass. High temperatures surged well into the 90s and at most places, it turned out to be the hottest day of the summer (Flint and Saginaw both hit 96 degrees) High relative humidity accompanying the heat pushed heat indices up to around 100 - 110 degrees (locally even higher)! The heat and humidity certainly helped fuel the atmosphere for the rough weather that lie ahead and numerous reports of high winds and large hail accompanied this outbreak of storms.


August 2003 observations for Flint:
Text or Graphic

SEPTEMBER 2003

  • DESPITE LATE MONTH COLD SNAP, SEPTEMBER STILL AVERAGES ABOVE NORMAL AND REMNANTS OF HURRICANE ISABEL BRING BENEFICIAL RAINS TO SOME
Graph of daily temperature and precipitation for September 2003

Much of September continued the trend of August with warm and basically pleasant sunny weather. The dry spell (especially across the Saginaw valley and Thumb region) only worsened with time. By the 20th, temperatures averaged around five degrees above normal while accompanied by only a half an inch of rain (over two inches below normal). With considerable sunshine, temperatures frequently rose into the 80s.

With much of the region having a notable dry spell, rain from the remnants of Hurricane Isabel was welcome as she spun up and passed to our east on the 18th -19th Unfortunately, the dries of the area (Flint and the Saginaw Valley) received little as less than a tenth of an inch /.09/ fell at both Flint and Saginaw.

A colder and wetter weather pattern returned during the last week or so, just in time for the arrival of Autumn. As waves of cool air surged into the region, all 80 degree weather was replaced with 60s and 50s. A strong cold front plowed across the land on the 22nd, bringing storms with torrential rains. Rainfall of 1.27" fell at Flint and while the 1.27 was not a daily rainfall record for the 22nd, the 1.10" that fell on the 24th was a record. Strong storms accompanied the heavy rain along with gusty winds. So cool was the last week of the month, that the five degrees above normal (by the 20th), dropped to about a degree above normal by month's end.


September 2003 observations for Flint:
Text or Graphic

OCTOBER 2003

  • ACTIVE ROLLER-COASTER TEMPERATURE PATTERN LEADS TO NUMEROUS TEMPERATURE SWINGS INCLUDING RECORD COLD BLAST AND INDIAN SUMMER WEATHER
Graph of daily temperature and precipitation for October 2003

October opened in the depths of some unseasonably cold air as a strong polar high pressure moved in from Northern Canada. In fact, several cooperative observers reported some wet snowflakes mixed with the rain on the 1st (the earliest snowfall observance on record at Flint Bishop Airport is Sep 29, 1967 with a trace). High temperatures held down in the 50s while lows fell to the mid 20s to mid 30s much of the first week (The mean temperature averaged in the mid 40s, or about ten degrees below normal). A low of 26 on the 6th broke the old record of 27 from back in 1958 and the resulting hard freeze ended the growing season.

Behind the giant high pressure, much warmer air was funneled northward into the Great Lakes during the second week. True Indian Summer weather pushed temperatures up to around 80 on the 8th (high of 81 came within 3 degrees of the record /84-1949/). This beautiful warm up signaled the start of the warm period that lasted right through the 13th. During this warm stretch, temperatures averaged close to ten degrees above normal this time rather than below.

A vigorous low pressure system and cold front ended the nice weather with a vengeance on the 14th with just over an inch /1.01/ of rain falling in Flint. High temperatures fell back into mainly the 50s from the 14th-19th and was accompanied by considerable sunshine. Warm weather returned on the 20th with temperatures surging back up to near 80 (a high of 78 degrees at Flint was just three degrees below the record of 81).

The roller-coaster continued as a another strong front knocked temperatures back down into the 40s and 50s from the 22nd through 29th. But then, Halloween arrived on the tails of another brief encore of Indian summer weather with temperatures surging back up into the 70s. It turned out to be one of the warmest of Halloween evenings this area has seen (temperatures hovered in the 60s - a good 20 degrees above normal). The average temperature of 49.6 was just .4 above normal, so basically a "normal" temperature month (a month that was anything but).


October 2003 observations for Flint:
Text or Graphic

NOVEMBER 2003

  • WETTEST NOVEMBER AND SIXTH WARMEST NOVEMBER ON RECORD IN FLINT AS CONFLICTING AIR MASSES BRING ABOUT THE "STORMS OF NOVEMBER"
Graph of daily temperature and precipitation for November 2003

As the calendar turned to November, the rains finally arrived across the Flint area north into the Saginaw Valley and took a chunk out of the notable rainfall deficit. With 5.66" of rain falling at Flint Bishop Airport and 4.54" of rain at Tri Cities Airport near Saginaw, it was the wettest November on record at Flint and the fifth wettest at Saginaw.

Temperatures averaged two and a half degrees /2.5/ above normal in Flint making this the sixth warmest November on record. However, even with an average temperature of 40.5 in Saginaw (also 2.5 degrees above normal), Saginaw did not place in its top 20 warmest Novembers. November opened with unseasonably warm weather through the 5th. At the height of the warmth, the temperature hit 69 degrees on the 4th, then a strong cold front pushed through the region overnight on the 5th/6th, spawning showers and thunderstorms. The front also dropped temperatures dramatically to below seasonable levels. A high of only 35 on the 8th came within two degrees of the record low maximum (33 degrees set in the 1991).

A very deep and intense low pressure system moved through the Great Lakes on the 12th - 13th. The storm's central air pressure cratered to near 28.90 inches /978 MB/ as it tracked into Quebec, Canada early on the 13th. Winds gusted to between 50 and 70 mph and a F1 tornado was briefly spawned near Akron in Tuscola County. It's worth noting that this tornado was only the third tornado ever to be sighted in Southeast Lower Michigan in November, and one of only two autumn tornadoes reported in Tuscola County. Meanwhile, over Lake Huron, peak winds of 50 to 65 mph produced waves of up to 25 feet! This storm brought back memories of some of the fierce infamous November storms that have pummeled the Great Lakes.

A surge of warmth pushed north into the region from the 17th through the 24th. Readings averaged about 12 degrees above normal as temperatures rose into the 50s and 60s. A high of 66 on the 23rd came within one degree of the record /67-1999/.

Winter arrived just about on schedule (late November) after Thanksgiving. A storm center winding up over the eastern Great Lakes Region brought our first notable round of snow and cold. Most areas saw a light coating from a trace to around an inch but isolated areas around Flint saw 2 to 3 inches of partially melted snow


November 2003 observations for Flint:
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DECEMBER 2003

  • THOUGH THE EIGHTH WARMEST DECEMBER ON RECORD, THE AREA STILL ENJOYS A WHITE CHRISTMAS
Graph of daily temperature and precipitation for December 2003

The 32.1 degree average temperature placed this December in a tie (with December of 1979) for the eighth warmest December on record. Surprisingly, even with that +5.4 temperature departure, there were no record highs set during December. The active storm track of the fall took a bit of a breather over Southeast Lower Michigan in December. The strongest storms of the month brought more heavy amounts of rain, rather than snow, since these storms did track north of the region.

December opened on a windy note with the peak wind gust of 41 mph recorded on 1st. Other than that, the first week of December was rather benign weather-wise. One strong low pressure moved from the Southern Plains into the Northern Great Lakes late on the 10th and brought heavy rains to the region. All of the area saw around an inch of rain or less. Then, another strong low pressure system again crossing the Northern Lakes, brought snow and snow showers. Over 2 1/2" of snow fell, along with gusty surface winds.

Cold air behind a storm on the 23rd helped set the stage for another white Christmas over Southeast Michigan. A weak but moist low pressure system, dropping south across the region Christmas Eve and Day, brought light to moderate snow. Snowfalls ranged generally between 3 and 6 inches with the higher amounts near the Saginaw Bay. Officially, five inches of snow was measured at Flint which made for a nice white Christmas.

The month ended with another benign but mild streak of weather. One minor exception was a broad area of light to moderate rain that moved through the area on the 29th. Rainfall with this system was also quite generous with totals an inch or less.


December 2003 observations for Flint:
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