Archive for March, 2009

Crazy Lake Effect
March 3, 2009

The most remarkable lake effect event that I have ever witnessed happened Sunday night and Monday. Large lake effect snows are relatively rare on our side of Lake Michigan. The 14.4″ received at the airport will likely be the biggest lake effect snow in Milwaukee history.

Lake effect snows are rare for us because we need a steady north-northeasterly wind. This is not a prevalent wind direction and normally the wind does not stay steady from this direction. On Sunday night, I knew that lake effect snow would happen, but it did not look like it would be a big event. The same band that hit our area was affecting Chicago all day and was a very minor event. Less than an inch of snow occured in Chicago. As Sunday night went on, the lake band, which was no more than five miles wide became stationary right over southern Milwaukee county. The airport was in the bullseye.

Most of the area had sunshine all day, but the lake band was very persistent. At the peak of the lake effect, the snowfall rates were 2-3″ per hour. The snow was very light and fluffy with a minimal amount of water equivalent. The normal snow ratio is about 12:1, meaning 1″ of rain would equal 12″ of snow. The ratio for the lake effect event was about 46:1.

I hate to say it was not possible to predict, but there truly was no way to know the band would stay stationary in one location.

In the meantime, enjoy the warmer weather on the way.

Mark Baden