National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce


A little over a week following an early April snowstorm across northern Michigan, another strong late-season winter storm pummeled the region from April 13-17, 2018. This more prolonged, slow-moving system impacted northern Michigan in waves, with a few distinct rounds of wintry precipitation occurring over the course of several days. 

The storm began the afternoon of Friday, April 13 with scattered, heavy snow showers and even a few thunderstorms producing small hail along and south of M-72. Snow became more widespread that evening, and a very intense band developed over the Tip of the Mitt with snowfall rates up to 2 inches per hour in some areas overnight. Many locations along and north of M-32 woke up to around a foot or more of heavy, wet snow Saturday morning (highest around Elmira and Boyne Falls where 17 inches was reported!), but the heaviest snow from this initial band stayed just south of the Straits region. 

The next round of heavier wintry precipitation held off until early Sunday morning. Mixed precipitation was more of a concern with this batch, as warmer air aloft was streaming in from the south just ahead of the approaching storm system. NWS Gaylord, which typically launches weather balloons twice daily, performed a special balloon release at 2 AM Sunday to gauge how prominent this "warm nose" had become. The environment was found to be supportive for sleet and possibly some freezing rain on Sunday.

However, it soon became apparent that low level temperatures would not change much through the day. As a result, sleet persisted across much of northern Michigan from early Sunday morning through late afternoon. A handful of locations along and south of M-72 reported freezing rain briefly, but up to a few inches of accumulating sleet was the general rule. While this mitigated the threat of ice accretion from freezing rain, the accumulating sleet was similar in consistency to sand, making it difficult to walk or drive on, as well as to remove from driveways. Sunday was also the first round of significant precipitation with this system to impact eastern Upper, generally in the form of snow and some sleet.

As the system began to slowly depart late Sunday night, another round of heavier snow developed and slowly pivoted counterclockwise across northern Michigan through the day Monday and into Monday night, resulting in several inches of additional accumulation. Some lake enhancement also came into play off Lake Michigan Monday night into Tuesday morning. By midday Tuesday, the departing storm system had pushed into the Northeast with lingering snow on its backside finally coming to an end across northern Michigan.

This strong system was significant not only for occurring so late in the season but also for the  magnitude of snowfall it brought, with storm total snowfall approaching 2 feet in some areas. Following the other heavy snow event at the beginning of the month, this system pushed many locations into their all-time snowiest April on record. Gusty winds as high as ~45 mph during this event resulted in significant blowing and drifting snow, making travel extremely difficult at times across much of northern Michigan. Power was out in many areas due to the combination of heavy, wet snow and gusty winds. As a result, many schools, businesses, and government agencies were closed on Monday, some even into Tuesday within the hardest-hit areas.

Radar loop of the April 13-17, 2018 winter storm. Note that the blue mask layer is only an approximation of wintry precipitation.
Satellite loop of the April 13-17, 2018 winter storm.
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