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What will this winter bring?

N-Winter-forecastOld weather lore tells us that “Flowers bloomin’ in late Autumn, A sure sign of a bad Winter comin’,” and that “A warm November is the sign of a bad Winter.”

Last week The Post printed a photo of some flowers blooming in November when they shouldn’t be, and everyone agrees that we’ve had a warm November, hitting the 50s and 60s for a couple weeks. Does that mean a hard winter is coming?

The Post has learned to rely on the forecasts from WOODTV8 Chief Meteorologist Bill Steffen. For the 2008-2009 forecast, he definitely got the part right about above average snowfall. “I wasn’t quite high enough on the totals but I don’t think I’d ever forecast 100-plus inches in a mid-fall forecast,” he explained in his most recent winter forecast.

He said that snowfall this winter will be above average, but less than the totals reached the previous two years, and that the temperature will be one to two degrees cooler than average. He’s predicting about 83 inches of snow for the Grand Rapids area, with more for the lakeshore (closer to 100 inches).

The Old Farmer’s Almanac for 2010 predicts the winter to also be about a degree colder than average, and for snowfall in the western lower lakes area to be above average. They also predict a snowstorm around Thanksgiving, and other snowy periods during the first and last parts of December, late January, late February and mid-march. They predict the coldest periods the second week of December, pretty much all of January and mid-February.

According to Steffen, the latest information he has pushes the snow to Sunday, November 29. (It was expected earlier in the week.) “I still think we are snowier/colder for the period between Nov. 29-Dec. 31 and maybe beyond,” Steffen predicted.

Steffen noted that we have never had a November in Grand Rapids without seeing at least a trace of snow. “There have only been six Novembers when we had just a trace of snow. The last time that happened was in 2001. That year we had only a trace of snow in November, then 2.2″ on Dec. 14th, which quickly melted as temperatures shot back into the 40s. Then from Dec. 23 to Dec. 31 we received 51.7″ of snow!” he said.

According to the National Weather Service, Michigan’s temperatures for the 2008-2009 winter season were below average across the state and the coldest since 1993-94. The past winter ranked as the 20th coldest winter on record for Michigan, with several locations, including Flint and Marquette, recording a top 10 coldest winter. The most extreme arctic cold occurred January 13 -18, when lows dipped below zero across most of the state including the metro Detroit area.  During this time, it was also windy leading to dangerous wind chills of 30 to 40 below.  This five to six day stretch of arctic air was the longest and coldest string of days since January 1994. Snowfall and precipitation were again above average, especially across Southern Lower Michigan and the lake effect snow regions of the state, with snowfalls reported in the top 10 for many locations.

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