TRAVERSE CITY — A one-two blast of cold Arctic air and lake-effect snow is poised to pummel Traverse City in the snowiest holiday season since the mid-1990s.
Meteorologists predict up to 5 inches of snow could blanket the Grand Traverse area starting tonight and continuing well into Christmas Day. Nick Schwartz, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Gaylord, said snowy weather likely is here to stay.
“We are well ahead of previous years to date,” Schwartz said.
Traverse City’s seasonal snow total this year is about 42 inches, almost 15 inches above normal, but still far less than other northern Lower Michigan cities. Gaylord and Petoskey, have been socked with above-normal snow totals of 40 and 26 inches, respectively.
Tim Locker, another meteorologist with NWS’ Gaylord office, said regional snowfall is at the fourth-highest level in record. He said 1996 was the last time Traverse City received this much snow by this time of year.
And that doesn’t bother Traverse City resident Larry Czubak a bit. He sees the near-constant snowfall as a welcome return to normal.
“In my mind, it’s about time we got snow like this in northern Michigan,” he said. “This is the winter I’m used to growing up.”
Schwartz said a low pressure blast of cold air from Canada, a so-called “clipper system,” will move across the Midwest in time for Christmas. But he said Michigan can expect even more snow than its more western neighbors like Wisconsin.
“It is a clipper system that is getting its moisture further enhanced by the Great Lakes,” he said.
Snowfall totals may reach 3 to 5 inches starting tonight into Christmas Day. Schwartz said lake-effect snows may even linger into Thursday with chilly temperatures remaining throughout the week.
“It might break 20 degrees Christmas Day,” Swartz said. “It’ll send the wind chills that are generally in the single digits below zero, especially in the early morning hours. Bundle up out there.”
Jim Cook, manager of the Grand Traverse County Road Commission, said roads should be relatively clear Christmas Day. He said crews will man up to 40 trucks expect to continuously plow county roads over the holiday, with highways and other primary roads being the “main focus.”
“Then local roads, then subdivisions and gravel roads,” he said, pointing out it may take time to plow out subdivisions. “That’s kind of the worst-case scenario.”
Swartz said the one-two punch of cold Arctic air and lake-effect snow could continue into January. He said cold temperatures could break the cycle by freezing Lake Michigan and cutting off moisture that feeds lake-effect snow.
“It will shut down the lake-effect snow machine,” he said.