Stuck freighters, bursting pipes, and heavy snow top the list of Michigan weather events on this day in history. From the National Weather Service archives here are the events that happened on Dec 25.
The wood schooner, fur trader Siskawit, while carrying light in 1849, was driven onto a bar just offshore near mouth of Chocolay River, southeast of Marquette, Mich. in Lake Superior and wrecked during a gale. Those aboard had “kidnapped” her and her cargo at L’Anse a few days earlier.
In 1982, southerly winds push temperatures into the 60s during the warmest Christmas on record for Lower Michigan. The unusual warmth is punctuated by scattered thunderstorms. A record daily high temperature of 65 degrees was set in Grand Rapids and Lansing with Muskegon setting record with 61 degrees. Alpena sees their warmest December day ever with a record high of 65 degrees, which is later tied on Dec, 5, 2001. On the east side of the state, records of 64 degrees, 65 degrees, and 63 degrees were respectively set in Detroit, Flint, and Saginaw. Other record highs on this day include Houghton Lake with 59 degrees and Sault Ste. Marie with 47 degrees.
Only one year after the warmest Christmas on record, Lower Michigan set record lows in 1983, with temperatures plunging below zero as a long siege of arctic air dominates the last half of the month. Grand Rapids set a record with minus 3 degrees and Detroit minus 10 degrees. Muskegon is a bit warmer, but they still saw a record low of 4 degrees.
In 1996, low pressure moved from Illinois to northern Lake Huron on the morning of Dec. 24, bringing up to 10 inches of synoptic scale snow to central and eastern Upper Michigan. As the low moved to the northeast, cold air on northerly winds blowing across the warmer waters of Lake Superior, then brought 7 to 10 additional inches of lake- enhanced snow to areas between the Keweenaw Peninsula, Marquette and Whitefish Point. The snow ended during the afternoon of Dec. 25. The highest snow totals were 20 inches at Two Heart (25 miles north-northeast of Newberry in Luce County), and 18 inches at Marquette and Calumet. Other snow totals include Munising and Shingleton with 13 inches, in Alger County. In Baraga County, Herman observed 15 inches and in Luce County the town of Newberry saw 10 inches.
Strong west winds pushed frigid arctic air across Lake Superior in 1998, developing a band of lake effect snow squalls that extended from the Apostle Islands, across the Keweenaw Peninsula and into central Lake Superior. The snow squalls over the Keweenaw Peninsula continued until the wind shifted to the southwest. Snowfall totals were in excess of 30 inches at Calumet and at the Houghton County airport, but exact measurements were impossible because of the blowing and drifting. The snow started on Dec. 23 in the morning and ended early in the morning on Dec. 25.
In 2000, Christmas morning dawned clear and frigid, with Lansing falling to minus 17 degrees for their coldest Christmas on record. A morning low of minus 13 degrees at Flint, set an all-time mark for the month of December (the old record was minus 12 degrees on Dec. 23, 1989). Saginaw reached minus 3 degrees. Three nights later, Flint would give the new record a run for its money, coming up just short with a low of minus 11 degrees on the Dec. 28, this was still a new record for the day. Saginaw fell to minus 5 degrees on Dec. 28. The arctic weather would take a toll on pipes. Both Ypsilanti High School and Chelsea High School had pipes burst over Christmas weekend, damaging classrooms. Several buildings on the University of Michigan campus in Ann Arbor had similar ruptures, including the School of Dentistry and Wolverine Tower. The cold also hampered shipping interests. Ice formation was extremely rapid on the Great Lakes and the connecting waterways. Several freighters got stuck in ice on both the Detroit River and Lake St Clair, blocking the shipping channel and bringing dozens of ships to a halt. Icebreaker assistance was needed to free the freighters. This arctic outbreak helped to seal December 2000 into the records with the fourth coldest December in Detroit, and the second coldest December for both Flint and Saginaw.
In 2003, heavy snow moved into the region from the northeast on Christmas Eve night, wrapping around a powerful upper level disturbance in the eastern Great Lakes. The snow was enhanced by warmth and moisture off of Lake Huron. Snowfall totals of 6 to 10 inches occurred over far eastern Upper Michigan in Chippewa and Mackinac Counties with 10 to 12 inches of snow falling near Kinross and Hessel.
An Arctic airmass lingering over the region in 2004, generated heavy lake effect snow bands off Lake Michigan. Areas hit with the heaviest snows were along the Garden Peninsula in Delta and southern Schoolcraft counties. Cooks in southern Schoolcraft County was blanketed with 15 inches of snow in 12 hours, while just to the west, Garden Corners in Delta County received 10 inches. Heavy lake effect bands also developed off Lake Superior on the evening of Dec. 25 and continued into the Dec. 26. The city of Marquette was pounded with 8 inches of snow in just 3 hours while the National Weather Service Office just to the west measured 14 inches in 6 hours. Big Bay in Marquette County also received 8 inches in 12 hours.
A low pressure moving from the Plains toward the Lower Great Lakes on Christmas Eve, 2008, spread moderate to heavy snow over portions of east and west Upper Michigan. Observers reported 7 to 10 inches of snow between McMillan and Newberry in less than 24 hours. The snow started in the morning on Dec. 24 and ended early in the morning on Dec. 25.