Brutal cold, severe storms and a nearly frozen Lake Michigan top the list of Michigan weather events on this day in history. From the National Weather Service and Storm Prediction Center (SPC) archives here are the events that happened on Feb. 17.
Arctic air was in force across Lower Michigan in 1973, with a record low of minus 19 degrees at Grand Rapids. Muskegon fell to minus 14 degrees, just shy of the record low for the day of 15 below set in 1904.
In 1979, a long spell of frigid weather during January and February results in Lake Michigan freezing over almost completely for the only time on record. The overnight temperature plummeted to a record setting minus 19 degrees in Flint, minus 7 degrees in Detroit, minus 34 degrees in Houghton Lake and Marquette, minus 35 degrees in Sault Ste. Marie, and minus 37 degrees in Alpena. For Alpena and Marquette this is the coldest temperature ever recorded for any day of the year.
A pool of cold Canadian air was centered just north of Lake Superior in 1999. A low pressure system tracked from southern Minnesota across Wisconsin, Lower Michigan and into Quebec. Precipitation started as light freezing drizzle but soon turned to snow with the arrival of the colder air. As the system moved east, most of the Upper Peninsula received from three to five inches of system snow. Northeast winds behind the low generated lake effect snow squalls along the south shore of Lake Superior with the heaviest accumulations over the north central Upper Peninsula and the Keweenaw Peninsula. Storm totals include 17 inches at the Marquette County Airport, 16 inches at Phoenix, 14 inches at the Houghton County Airport and 10 inches at Witch Lake.
In 2008, low pressure tracking from Missouri into Lower Michigan spread wet heavy snow across central and eastern Upper Michigan on the afternoon and evening of Feb. 17. Lake effect snow showers developing behind the storm added a few more inches to snow totals over the north central Lake Superior snowbelts into Feb. 18. Observers in Stonington and Gladstone reported ten inches of wet heavy snow in the 12-hour period ending early evening on Feb. 17. Escanaba Public Safety asked residents not to drive unless it was an emergency as plows in the area were not able to keep up with the snowfall. Several vehicles were stuck on snowpacked roads and had to be towed away. Numerous accidents were reported by law enforcement. A spotter near Shot Point reported ten inches of total snowfall in the 24-hour period ending on the morning of Feb. 18. Law enforcement officials reported numerous accidents throughout Marquette County due to snowpacked and slippery roadways. Observers from Menominee to Stephenson reported six to nine inches of snow in the 12-hour period ending early in the evening with law enforcement officials reporting numerous accidents due to snowpacked and slippery roadways. On the southern end of the same storm a line of strong thunderstorms produced numerous tornadoes across Florida, Georgia and Alabama. In Michigan there was only one report of severe weather. In Centreville trees and branches came down and there were live wires near the Clark Covered Bridge.