As October comes to a close and November begins, the seasonal transition towards winter is in full swing. While heavy snow, extreme cold, ice and wind routinely affect Upper Michigan during winter, it is still important for residents to prepare for the dangers associated with winter weather.
In an effort to raise awareness about the potential winter dangers, Governor Rick Snyder has declared November 6 12, 2011, as Winter Hazards Awareness Week in Michigan. "Michigan winters can be severe, so preparedness, awareness and common sense are always important," said Capt. Thomas Sands, commander of the Michigan State Police Emergency Management and Homeland Security Division. "During Winter Hazards Awareness Week, I encourage Michigan residents to learn of the dangers associated with cold, snow and ice, as well as threats posed by the use of heat sources such as wood burning stoves, fireplaces and space heaters."
Last winter La Nina played a significant role in keeping the main storm track south of Upper Michigan. La Nina is a phenomenon where the water temperatures in the equatorial Pacific Ocean are below normal. With the main storm track remaining across the Ohio Valley, the heaviest system snows remained south of Upper Michigan across Wisconsin and Lower Michigan. In fact, many of those areas experienced one of their snowiest winters on record. Meanwhile, across Upper Michigan, despite winter temperatures averaging close to normal, snowfall averaged well below normal with many locations recording one of their driest winters on record.
La Nina conditions are expected again through this coming winter. While forecasting a winter outlook based solely on La Nina is difficult at best, La Nina winters tend to favor below normal temperatures across the Northern Plains and a favored storm track through the Ohio Valley. While Upper Michigan has experienced both warmer than normal and colder than normal winters in La Nina years, there is a slight trend towards below average snowfall.
Regardless of how the winter averages out, the weather will soon begin to turn colder with plenty of episodes of wintry weather on the way. Thus, now is the time to make sure you are ready for the upcoming winter. Many simple preparations can be taken to prepare for the upcoming winter season including making sure your car is ready for the colder weather, having a survival kit in your car, ensuring you have warm coats, hats, and gloves, and being aware of potential fire and carbon monoxide hazards from alternate heat sources such as a fireplaces, wood stoves or space heaters.
For more information on how to prepare for the upcoming winter season, visit the National Weather Service in Marquette website at www.weather.gov/mqt