History of Blizzards and Snow Storms in Detroit

Snow, Snow, Snow

Snow and lots of it
Photo © Laura Sternberg, Licensed

The fact that Michigan is surrounded by water means that it is somewhat protected from extreme wet weather. Even so, Detroit's average yearly snowfall comes in at a healthy 42 inches. That being said, the city's worst winter for the white stuff was 75.3 inches. Of course, snow stats are only part of the story.

Detroit's Big Blizzards

  • Winter of 1900: During the first week of March, February 28th through March 6th to be exact, two snow storms hit the Detroit area in quick succession. The result was over 30 inches of the white stuff.
  • Winter of 1913: A high-wind winter storm wreaked havoc in Michigan from Detroit up through the thumb. While the snowfall didn't break any records, the storm's cold winds reached 60 mph with occasional gusts of 70 mph. Areas along Lake Huron got heavy snow and drifts, but the worst damage came on the water itself. Shipping was still going strong on the lake, which meant there were a lot of ships on the water when the storm hit. This resulted in a huge loss of life.
  • Winter of 1923: While the total snowfall for the day wasn't all that extraordinary in terms of Michigan winters, it hit a new high for spring. After a surprising cold snap the previous day, six inches of snow fell in Detroit on May 9th. Some areas further afield got almost a foot of the white stuff.
  • Winter of 1974: Over Thanksgiving Weekend on December 1st & 2nd, Detroit received over 19 inches of heavy, wet snow. This, of course, caused all kinds of problems during one of the biggest travel weekends of the year.
  • Winter of 1999: The new year brought snow and more snow in 1999. The first of several snowstorms that hit the Detroit area in quick succession dumped 12-to-8 inches on January 2nd and 3rd. Drifts were up to 3 feet in some places, and the airport was closed for three days. By mid January, 23 inches of snow was on the ground.
  • Winter of 2014: Not only were low temperatures and icy roads a problem, but the metropolitan area got a lot of snow throughout the the winter of 2013/2014. While the months of December, February and March of 2013/2014 were competitive toward setting records, it was the month of January that set an all-time record for snow received in one month at 39.10 inches. 

Snowiest Snow Storms in Detroit

If it's all about the number of inches on the ground for you, check out the Top Ten Snow Storms in Detroit compiled by CBS Detroit

  • 24.5 inches feel on April 6th, 1886
  • 19.3 inches fell on December 1st & 2nd, 1974
  • 14 inches fell in each of two storms in 1900
  • 13.8 inches on December 18th & 19th, 1929
  • 12.8 inches fell on February 12th & 13th, 1894
  • 12.6 inches fell on February 19th, 1908
  • 12.5 inches fell on January 31st & February 1st, 1881
  • 12.3 inches fell in each of two storms: March 3rd & 4th, 1895 and February 9th, 1911
  • 12.2 inches fell on January 22nd & 23rd, 2005
  • 12.1 inches fell on January 13th & 14th, 1927

Record 24-hour Snowfall in Michigan

While the Detroit area has an impressive relationship with the white stuff, it is the state's northern climes that get most of the snow. The record 24-hour snowfall in the state was 32 inches and was recorded in the Upper Peninsula's community of Herman on December 2nd, 1985.

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