January eighth coldest on record for Alpena

Alpena had its fair share of below zero temperatures in January, but it was below average in snow accumulation, according to the National Weather Service. Last month Alpena recorded its eighth coldest month since data began being recorded in 1916 with an average temperature of 12 degrees. On average the mean temperature is 19 degrees in January.

National Weather Service meteorologist Dave Lawrence said the last several winters have been relatively mild, but January was a reminder of how extreme winter in Northeast Michigan can be.

“It was cold, unusually cold,” Lawrence said. “January is usually the coldest month of the year, but even by that standard it was well below average temperature-wise. The temperatures definitely woke people up and reminded them what an old-fashioned winter is like. The last several have been on the mild side.”

There were 14 days the thermometer dipped below zero. The lowest reading at the Alpena County Regional Airport was -21 degrees on Jan. 22 and the warmest was Jan. 13 when the temperature hit 39 degrees. The record average low temperature for Alpena was in 1918 with seven degrees.The warm spell was short lived however as the polar vortex drifted south from Canada and blanketed northern Michigan for more than a week.

Lawrence said there were 19 days in January where measurable snow had fallen in Alpena. He said a majority of the time it amounted to only a trace. Lawrence said 15.5 inches of new snow fell in January, with the largest 24 hour accumulation being 2.4 inches on Jan. 5. Record snowfall for the month of January is 43.5 inches in 1978. He said it seems like the area received more snow than it did because of the cold weather.

“Snowfall was right about where it was supposed to be, and actually a little under,” Lawrence said. “What gets people is the snow depth kept going up and up and there was no thaw, so it seemed like we got more snow.”

Although Alpena won’t reach the frigid temperatures it did during stretches in January, Lawrence said the first two weeks in February appear as if they are also going to be colder than normal.

“February is going to start on the cold side, not as cold, but below average,” he said. “There are some signs that temperatures could moderate some toward the middle of the month and that won’t hurt anyone’s feelings. There are some hopeful signs.”

As named storms continue to develop in the west, Lawrence said they are going to have larger impacts on southern states and only lower parts of Michigan. He said there are no significant snow events forecasted right now and lake effect snow also is unlikely because of the ice on the great lakes.

“When you get a solid ice cover on the lakes, the lake effect snow machine totally shuts down,” Lawrence said. “Right now Lake Michigan has significant ice and the same can be said for Lake Huron. Right now there is some open water toward the middle of the lakes, but I think there is a great chance they can completely freeze over, which hasn’t happened since 1994.”

Lawrence said people who are hoping for an unseasonable warm spell to thaw the snow shouldn’t hold their breath. He said Alpena will get more snow and cold.

“We are going to have at least two more solid months of winter,” Lawrence said. “The snow is going to be lingering on the ground for some time. It is not going to be going anywhere anytime soon.”

Steve Schulwitz can be reached via email at sschulwitz@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5689. Follow Steve on Twitter ss_alpenanews. Read his blog, Upon Further Review … at www.thealpenanews.com.