WEATHER HIGHLIGHTS OF 2003 IN SOUTHEAST LOWER MICHIGAN

Written by: William R. Deedler, Weather Historian
National Weather Service Detroit/Pontiac, MI
December 17th, 2003

One of the coldest and snowiest winters in recent years affected most of Southeast Lower Michigan late 2002 into early 2003. Several storms dumped heavy amounts of snow, mainly over extreme Southeast Lower Michigan. This lead to Detroit's ninth snowiest winter on record since Picture of ice accumulations outside the NWS office in White Lake, April 4th, 2003 1870 with 60.9 inches measured. An early spring ice storm on April 3rd-4th crippled portions of Southeast Lower Michigan. A storm center dropped heavy amounts of rain and freezing rain along with thunderstorms. This led to a significant icing event with a 1/4" to around an inch of ice north of an Ann Arbor-Detroit line. By far, the worst of the storm was over Oakland County where up to an inch of ice accumulated. Nearly a half-million customers were without power over Southeast Lower Michigan and some stated it was the worst ice storm since 1976. Over 50 million dollars in damage was accrued as a result of this destructive ice storm.

Storm relative motion radar image of the thunderstorm producing a tornado near Grand Blanc While the spring into the summer period averaged comfortably cool, numerous intrusive fronts instigated quite an active severe weather season. 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 anniversary (1953) of the devastating F5 Flint-Beecher Tornado. Ironically, Mother Nature did her best by highlighting the occasion with a round of severe weather which produced another tornado, not far from the original site. A very potent squall line containing wind gusts up to 65 mph and one inch hail surged across the region early on the 4th of July. Numerous trees and power lines were knocked down, leaving about 170,000 customers without power and around 10 million dollars in damages. Despite the active weather pattern, moderate drought conditions made an appearance late summer from Detroit's northern suburbs northward across Flint, the Saginaw Valley and Thumb Region.

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 was another 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 entire region, while Lake Huron buoys reported huge waves up to 25 feet! A maximum wind gust of 88 mph was noted at Dexter, located in Washtenaw County. More extensive power outages occurred along with around 20 million dollars in damage. Unlike the previous winter, the Winter of 2003-04 got off to a slow start as far as cold and snowfall, with both being somewhat deficit


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