Storm Approaches


Eagle Harbor Web

An unofficial source of Eagle Harbor, Michigan news, views and information.

1999-2000 Harbor Web Snow Forecast Contest

Winter Storm Approaches

1999 - 2000 Snowfall Forecast Contest
Monthly Reports

The only game in town! Fearless forecasters vie for bragging rights and fabulous prizes.

April & May Report. George Milonas and Barb and Tom Whiteside delightfully devoured March and April's prize pasties - while I ate crow.

It seems I, with Abby's able tie-breaking assistance, named them our winners without carefully checking the numbers. Upon receiving the "snow audit" I was astonished to learn that the March snowfall was actually 18.2", not 18.5" as previously reported. Our rule is to round down below 0.5", so while George Milonas smiled smugly, I tossed Abby dog biscuits marked Tim Colborn, Ton Knudsen, & John Wakeman. All had forcasted 18" for March, and thus were winners. Abby first found John's biscuit among the dandelions, so I owe him 3 pasties.

Much the same story in April, except my initial report and winner selection were even more off the mark. The actual snowfall was 11.5", not bad for April, a month that has averaged 10" over the last several decades. I'd initially reported it correctly, but then reduced it to 5", probably in a fit of frustration over the dismal snow year. Mary Beyers challenged the change, and I covered my tracks by explaining we had experienced a "Yooper Upper", an obviously very rare weather phenomenon that swoops up snow and returns it to the lake. (See "Messages" for the technical explanation.)

While the Whitesides were tableside rhapsodizing over the delicious pasties baked by our friends at Pasty Central, I received a message from the County's official snow counter, advising me that there had been no "Yooper Upper". That news delighted Abby as I tossed out biscuits marked Karen Juratich, Nancy Clarkson, Tom Vollema, & Ron Finn, all sitting pretty with 12" forecasts. It took some time for the retired retriver to locate the winner, but she finally found and munched Tom's biscuit. So Tom Vollema, you are our champ for April. Send me your order!

May. Another bust. For the third year in a row we received 0" of snow in May. This was no surprise to nearly half of our fearless forecasters, as 41 of us had resigned ourselves to an early spring. A fitting end to a very disappointing year for those of us who love the sign along US 41 that proudly proclaims, "The Keweenaw - Snow Capitol of the Midwest!". (However, in fairness, most folks "up the hill" were not at all disappointed when they failed to win Fraki's Finer Foods annual "Win a Trip To Hawaii" drawing. Why leave they thought, when the weather is so wonderful here - and the scoop is gathering rust.)

March Report. The final count, 18.5" (rounded to 19" for contest counting) seems oddly at variance with the Harbor experience. For the few of us who are able to enjoy the quiet of a harbor March, it seemed to be a snowless month, just one more big disappoinment for we snow junkies. In fact, less than a inch of March's total managed to grace our greening yards. March was clearly a month for the "higher terrain" folks, but even they had to wait until the last week. By the time the 12" to 16" storm of March 27th arrived, scoops and blowers had been stowed away and screens and bug suits made ready. Since our official measuring box and stick are poised up at Delaware, we recorded the 19"; the harbor experience meaning little in the wacky world of Harbor Web contests.

Abby loved it. For the second month of this season's forecasting contest, she happily munched away at dog biscuits as we used her tie breaking prowness to determine who among the very best of our 80 some forecasters would munch on the big pasty prize. George Milonas a name all Calumet AFB alumni will recognize with fondness, had the winning dog biscuit, thus wrestling the yummy pasties donated by the good folks at Pasty Central from the grasps of equally adept forecasters Gary Bryant and Dave Jokinen. All three had perfect 19" forecasts.

By virtue, or lack thereof, of the contest czar's arbitrary rounding up decision, forecasters John Wakeman, Ron Knudsen, and Tim Colborn didn't even merit a contender dog biscuit, even though their 18" forecasts were as close as our winners. Sorry guys. Fifteen of our number were within an inch of the final measurement. A remarkable showing.

Now to April the last winter month with a good statistical chance of snow. We average about 10" and rarely have a snowless April. It is well that I am late with the March report, for I would have greatly embarrassed myself with my early in April confident prediction that the snowfall season was over. Now, of course, with the hindsight of 6" in the first 10 days, and another 3" to 4" last night (the 11th), I can with even greater assurance predict that we may come close to inching over the all time record low seasonal snowfall of 162". It will be close, but the bottom line will be a season the Tourism Council will likely not tout in their propaganda, nor will it bolster the prospects of skiing on Mt Bohemia before the next ice age arrives.

February Report. There is not a whole lot to say about February - a month of less than half of normal snowfall, and a month that departs with bare ground around Harbor camps. Yes, we enjoyed another 15.5", and for awhile the skiing was good on the trails and snowmobilers were a happy lot. But that favorable time was shortlived as skies cleared during the third week and warm dry air gusting in from the south pushed temperatures into the fifties, reaching 60 by month end. What a bummer!

In fact, the snowfall, or lack thereof, was so abnormal, that only two of our 80 forecasters were even close. Of the two, our February Champ Liz Benson, of Boorman family fame, was even better than close. Her 16" forecast was perfect, a tribute to the Boorman clan's uncanny forecasting prowness (sister Barb was our December winner). So another round of delicious prize pasties for the Boorman table. The February "Honorable Pasty" award (noneatable) goes to Naomi Sickler, the only other forecaster willing to go below 20".

So on to March.We have never had a snowless March in the 42 years the County has been tracking the stuff at the Delaware measuring station, but some feel, as do I, that this might be the year. That would be a fitting climax to a snowfall season that seems determined, probably destined, to set a record low. With only 132" to date, WAY below normal, and a decided shift to "spring" in our weather pattern, the odds are stacked for the record. In contrast, and offering some cause for hope, all 80 of our fearless forecasters expect double digit March snow, and all but three expect snow in April. One should pause before doubting such collective wisdom.

January Report.Another disappointing month. Although, in fairness to its namesake Janus, a Roman god who probably knew nothing of snow (and is now reincarnated as a famous mutual fund), January was at least respectable. Not the complete bust of October and November, nor the embarrassment of December, but a month of snow almost every day, and a 67.7 inches total that is only about four inches less than average. Except for the pause of the last week, each day was blessed with just enough lake effect to satisfy the "snow nerds" and keep the Harbor looking like its post card. (Let's hope it's just a "pause", and not another seasonal shutdown as has been the case the last few years.)

Nonetheless, the season total is just 117 inches as we embark into the waning snow months of February through April. (Yes, it does snow in May, even June, but such "bonuses" are rare in years as lean as this.) We are tracking to a record low season, with the current last place finisher, 1997-1998, managing to produce 140 inches by the end of January. Lots of theories about this, but my guess is that the locally revered Snow God Heikka Lunta, approaching senility, has been smitten with the hip wiggling, Polynesian bred babe of the warm Pacific, La Nina, and bamboozled into spending the winter in warmer zones. Why do you think they are having all that snow down south this year!

Ann Johnson, of Ann & Gerry literary fame, will wonder what skullduggery was at work in the last hours of the month. Seemingly sitting pretty on a "sure bet" forecast of 67", she awakened on February 1st to the awful news that someone found another 0.6" in the Delaware measuring box. This suddenly made Jim Boggio and Mike Ekdahl, each with forecasts of 68", our co-champions. Abby, the Wonderdog, happily performed her tie breaking duty, and first dug the dog biscuit marked with Mike's "M" from the snowdrift. Jim's "J" biscuit had been buried a bit deeper to offset "home field" advantage. (There was a rumor that someone, probably Abby or Jim, was hanging about the snow gauge on the last day of the month with a paw or handful of snow. Fortunately, the site is heavily guarded.)

So Mike, not Ann or Jim, will munch on the Harbor Web, monthly snowfall forecast winner's meal of champions, the delicious pasties donated to this worthy cause by the good folks at Still Waters Elder Home and their Keweenaw "" miracle, Pasty Central.

The "close but no pasties" crowd was unusually large this month, attesting to the overall skill and competitive instincts of our competitors. In addition to Jim and Ann, Mark Anderson, Ellie & Lindy Dahlstrom, Jack Brunell, and Ron Finn were just 2 inches off. Almost as close were Lisken Van Pelt Dusand Donna & Jack Bach, just 3 inches over the final measurement.

True, there were several forecasts way off the mark, including a handful of over 100 inch forecasts from the Friends of the Keweenaw membership. Nonetheless, we should all feel good about the month and our forecasting prowess.

February will be interesting. Normal snowfall, about 37 inches, is about half of January's. But over the past five or so years it's ranged from 8 to 66 inches. A real roll of the dice for our 80 some forecasters. If old Heikka should tire of his infatuation, we could have a bunch of happy Keweenaw campers. I suspect, however, the lure of the sarong will prove too irresistible.

December Report.This is not good! Just 45" of snow in a month that averages 62", and on the heels of a snowless October and a record tying low of just 4" in November. Is there some sort of a reverse and preverse correlation between the stock market and Keweenaw snowfall? If so, is that good? Are we, as market pundits suggest, due for a "correction"? H'mmmm, perhaps a declining snowfall trend is not such a bad thing after all!

Well, Barbara Williams thinks it's good thing. She lowballed December with a 45" forecast and walked away with the delicious Pasty Central pasties, the meal of champions. Most of us were too smitten by the tempting and pleasing pre season NOAA prognosis of a "heavier than normal snowfall" (our average December "guess" was 70"), but Barbara did have a few short sellers to give her some tough competition. One more light snowfall would have forced Abby into the dog bisquit tiebreaker, as Dick Van Pelt and Nancy Wakeman each though 47" would be the winner. A little further away from the pasties, but in the kitchen were Bruce Olson (40"), Nancy Clarkson (41"), and Tom Reilly (41").

So what will January bring? It's historically the "big" snow month with an average of 71". But given whats happened (or, more accurately, not happened) so far this snow season, who knows. Our average forecast is 82", probably once again reflecting the euphoria generated by the NOAA utterances. As for me? I'll hope my downtrend forecast of 50" comes true, once again apparently assuring a gangbuster stock market. Just think, a healty retirement portfolio and a tummy full of warm pasties. Am I selling my soul?

November ReportNovember's meagerly 4.2" was the second lowest recorded in the 42 years the County has been measuring the Delaware snowfall, bettering (worsening) the record 3.9" low of '90-'91 by just 0.3". The total to date of just 4.3" is by far the lowest of record, less than half of the 9.9" through November in '63-'64. This is not a good show for the "Snow Capitol of the Midwest"!
Paul Freshwater is a happy man. He will be munching on delicious Pasty Central pasties while the rest of us just squirm in our ski boots. His November forecast of 8", which I laughed at when he submitted it, was of course not close to the dismal actual, but closer than any of our other 87 fearless, and generally more optimistic, forecasters. Jeane Olson and Debby Buchs, always contenders for the winner honors, were in the low-ball park with their 10" forecasts. The Wonderdog was hoping for a tie between the two so she could play the "dog biscuit tie breaker" game.
My apology to Steve King, our 13" November forecaster. Steve, "so excited he could hardly sleep" when "in utter amazement" he read my one day-to-go report of 14.2", was to experience "deep disappointment" when I shoveled 10" off the record book at the last minute. Before his lawyers call, I'll send him some pasties.
Now to December. Our 88 forecasters average 70" (also the long term average) for what is traditionally our second biggest snow month. We have several forecasts in the low 40s and several at 100 or more. Last year we were mowing grass for the first three weeks of the month but then were blessed and buried in nearly 100" of beautiful fluffy snow over the holidays. We can always hope!

October Report.Ten of our 88 Harbor Web Snowfall Forecasters Correctly Predicted NO October Snow!
Debby Buchs, Mary Beyers,Marilynn Ehrenreich, Jack Brunell, Mary Rapai, John Rapai, Tina & Doug Long, Donna & Jack Bach, Jeane Olson, and Dick Van Pelt are all winners as sunny sky and warm temperatures closed out a disappointing snow month.

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