Top 10 WFO Marquette Weather Stories/Events of the Decade (2000-2009)

1.     Snowmelt Flood Season 2002

Citgo Station in Wakefield

Citgo Station in Wakefield

Record setting snowfall during the winter of 2001-2002 set the stage for significant snowmelt flooding in the spring of 2002.  The onset of record warm temperatures quickly melted the snowpack during a 6 day period, 11-17 April 2002 and released over 11 inches of water into the creeks, streams, rivers, and lakes of west and central Upper Michigan.  Periods of heavy rainfall during this time also exacerbated the flood situation.  The most significant flooding occurred in Gogebic County where the county was declared a disaster area by then Governor Engler.  Major flooding of rivers and lakes occurred in eight Upper Michigan counties.


2.     Dead River Flood May 2003

Tourist Park Breach during Dead River Flood

Tourist Park breach during Dead River Flood

Heavy rainfall of three to five inches occurring on May 11-12 caused widespread flooding across west and north central portions of Upper Michigan.  A number of roads were washed out or closed including portions of M-28 in Ontonagon County and M-26 in Keweenaw County.  Flood waters as deep as three feet inundated downtown L’anse as Linden Creek overflowed its banks.   The heavy rains from this “Mother’s Day Storm” also lead to the failure of a dike on the Silver Lake Basin reservoir on May 15 and major flooding along a 25-mile stretch of the Dead River Basin.  Over nine billion gallons of water were released downstream washing out a number of roads and bridges and causing millions of dollars in property damage.  The flooding also caused the failure of the Tourist Park Dam in Marquette and prompted the evacuation of about 1800 residents on the north side of the city.    


3.     Record Winter of 2001-2002   

Lake Effect Snow Band over Marquette Febrauary 3, 2002

Lake Effect Snow Band over Marquette Febrauary 3, 2002 - Image courtesy of Don Rolfson

The rollercoaster ride of the winter of 2001-2002 featured unprecedented warmth at the end of 2001 with temperatures averaging more than 10 degrees above normal from November into early December at many locations.  With the exception of a snowstorm which dumped more than 30 inches of snow at Negaunee toward the end of November, snowfall was limited throughout much of west and central Upper Michigan from November into early December mainly due to the warmer temperatures.   A spell of colder air allowed for heavier snows to pile up toward the end of December ensuring a white Christmas, but then January 2002 turned warmer and drier than normal with generally below average snowfall.  What seemed like a fairly tame winter through the end of January, then roared into February and March with record-setting snowfall at many locations.  February 2002 became the snowiest month ever at the National Weather Service in Negaunee Township with a whopping 91.9 inches of snow.  March followed up with 83.1 inches of snow, sealing our fate as the snowiest winter ever at the Marquette NWS with an incredible snowfall total of 319.8 inches. 


4.     Severe Weather Season 2002

Tree damage from the Iron Mountain tornado  #4 - Iron Mountain Daily News

Tree damage from the Iron Mountain tornado - Image courtesy of Iron Mountain Daily News

The Marquette NWS issued 167 county severe thunderstorm warnings during the spring and summer of 2002 and verified 124 of them, making it by far and away the most active severe weather season of the past decade.   The first severe thunderstorms of the season occurred in mid-April during the heart of the worst snowmelt flooding in recent history.  Also highlighting the season were two powerful straight-line wind events, one which tore through the southern half of Marquette County on July 21 and another series of severe storms which raked across much of Upper Michigan on August 1.  These storm events produced extensive damage by downing numerous large trees and causing widespread power outages.  Finally, unseasonable late season warmth helped trigger an F-1 tornado in the Iron Mountain area on the evening of September 30th.  Widespread damage occurred along the storm system’s eight-mile path affecting Kingsford, Iron Mountain, Quinnesec, Breitung Township and Norway.   Roofs were torn off several homes and businesses while downed trees caused extensive power outages. 


5.     The Marquette Hailstorm of June 20, 2007

Siding damage from Marquette hailstorm #5 - Mining Journal

Siding damage from Marquette hailstorm - Image courtesy of Mining Journal

Supercell severe thunderstorms dropped large hail over portions of central Upper Michigan on the afternoon of June 20th.  The hardest hit areas were downtown Marquette and Harvey  where one-inch to baseball-sized hail pummeled cars, homes and businesses and stripped leaves and branches off trees.  The large hail piled up several inches deep clogging storm drains and causing minor street flooding.  Damage estimates to automobiles, roofs and siding from the storm exceeded $60 million. 



6.     The Black River Falls and Pinery  Wildfires of May 20, 2009

Black River Falls Wildfire #6 - TV6

Black River Falls Wildfire - Image courtesy of TV6

The passage of a strong warm front generated record warm temperatures near 90F along with gusty southwest winds up to 50 mph on May 20th.  Low temperatures that morning were only in the 30s before the frontal passage. This combination of warm and very windy conditions supplemented by very dry conditions and fuels ignited two significant wildfires on the afternoon of the 20th, one southwest of Ishpeming in Ely Township and another in the L’anse area.  The Black River Falls Wildfire in Ely Township prompted the evacuation of 500 residences during the evening and overnight hours of the 20th into the 21st. At least 30 structures were burned, including 12 homes. The Pinery Wildfire near L’anse burned one home.  Figures by the MIDNR estimated the cost of fighting the two fires was over $200, 000.


7.     The April Snowstorms of 2007-2009

April 1, 2008 blizzard in Marquette #7 - Mining Journal

April 1, 2008 blizzard in Marquette - Image courtesy of Mining Journal

Significant April snowstorms pounded west and central Upper Michigan during the last years of the decade.   An intense winter storm in April 2007 tracked from the Plains into the Great Lakes dumping very heavy lake enhanced snow across much of Upper Michigan from April 3-7.  Many locations received more than two feet of snow from this event.  Painesdale and Phoenix Farms over the Keweenaw Peninsula were hit particularly hard, measuring total snowfall of 59 and 57 inches respectively while the Marquette NWS received 47 inches.   The 24 inches of snow that fell at the Marquette NWS on the 4th was the second highest calendar day total ever.  Blizzard to near-blizzard conditions occurring from the 4th into the 5th closed many schools and businesses throughout the area.   The following April 2008 featured two significant snowstorms, one that continued from March 31st into April 1st and another that occurred from April 10-12.  Both storms produced blizzard conditions over portions of Upper Michigan.  Snowfall totals of 15.8 inches on the 1st and 13.6 inches on the 11th at the Marquette NWS were the second and fourth highest calendar day snowfall totals ever in April.   In April 2009, yet another snowstorm produced over 20 inches of snowfall at many locations from 19th through the 21st.  The Marquette NWS two-day snowfall total of 20.5 inches ending on the 21st was the fifth highest two-day total ever for April. 


8.     Drought and Record Low Great Lakes Levels 2005-2007

Sleeper Lake Fire #8 - MI DNR

Sleeper Lake Fire - Image courtesy of MI DNR

Drought conditions grabbed hold of Upper Michigan in the summer of 2005 and really didn’t let go until the end of 2007.  Most places only received 80 to 90 percent of the normal annual precipitation during 2005 and 2006 resulting in moderate to severe drought conditions across much of the region.  Even though precipitation totals rebounded to near normal values in 2007, severe to extreme drought conditions persisted across west and north central Upper Michigan due to sustained periods of below normal rainfall during the summer months.  The drought conditions were largely responsible for two significant fires which occurred in the spring and summer of 2007.  A prescribed burn over western Baraga County in late April 2007 flared into the Baraga Bump Wildfire which burned 1100 acres.  A lightning strike and sustained drought conditions also resulted in the much larger Sleeper Lake Fire over rural northern Luce County in August 2007.  The Sleeper Lake Fire burned 19,300 acres making it the largest wildfire in Michigan since 1980.  In addition to the large wildfires, drought conditions also lead to record low Lake Superior water levels by August and early September of 2007 breaking standards that had stood since 1925-26.   Lake Michigan and Lake Huron water levels by November and December of 2007 fell close to record lows established in 1964.   



9.     March 13-14, 2006  Blizzard over the West Half Of Upper Michigan

Buried Vehicle from March 13-14,2006 blizzard #9 - NWS

Buried Vehicle from March 13-14,2006 blizzard

A storm system developing over the central Plains deepened rapidly as it moved across eastern Upper Michigan on the evening of March 13th.  This powerful storm resulted in intense convective snowfall and blizzard conditions across much of west and north central Upper Michigan  on the 13th and 14th.  Embedded thunderstorms associated with the storm produced snowfall rates of one to two inches per hour on the 13th.   Higher terrain locations in Gogebic, Ontonagon, Houghton, Keweenaw, Baraga and Marquette counties generally received at least one to two feet of snow in a 24-hour period.  The greatest storm total snowfall included 33 inches in Rockland, 32 inches in Painesdale and 21 inches at the Marquette NWS.  Heavy sleet accumulations of two inches occurred at Iron Mountain with an inch of sleet at Two Heart in Luce County.


10.       Powerful Microburst Wind Event of August 9, 2005  

Bow Echo - August 9, 2005

Bow Echo - August 9, 2005

A cold front advancing through a moist and unstable airmass triggered a severe thunderstorm squall line which tore through much of west and central Upper Michigan on the morning and early afternoon of August 9, 2005.  The squall line produced strong microburst winds to near 90 mph which downed numerous large trees and power lines across the area.  The only counties in Upper Michigan that were spared from the damaging winds were Ontonagon, Houghton, Keweenaw and Baraga counties.   The Upper Peninsula Power Company estimated around 175 customers in the Witch Lake area of western Marquette County were without power due to the storms.


Honorable Mention Weather Stories   

-August 2-7, 2000: rip currents caused three drowning deaths in Alger County 

-June 9, 2000: golfball to baseball-sized hail event in Iron and Dickinson counties

-Brown Christmas 2006: experienced over much of the east half of Upper Michigan

-December 2000: record snowfall occurred across much of Upper Michigan

-June 17, 2006: microburst caused extensive damage across portions of Baraga, Houghton and Gogebic counties

-May 11-12, 2006: heavy rain event caused widespread flooding in northern Marquette County

-September 4, 2007: record calendar day rainfall total of 4.29 inches set at NWS Marquette

-November 27, 2007: “microblizzard”/high wind event downed numerous large trees and lead to numerous traffic accidents across portions of west and central Upper Michigan  

-Lake Superior "freezes over" twice with more than 95% ice coverage by early March 2003 and 2009 due to below normal winter temperatures.

-NWS Marquette plummets to 30 below zero on the morning of March 3, 2003...the coldest temperature of the decade. 

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