Rare May snow across West Michigan

Posted at 10:21 AM, May 15, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-15 10:22:06-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Can you image it’s actually cold enough for snow in West Michigan in mid-May to see, stick, and measure? That’s right…Grand Rapids just entered the record books (again) with another trace of snowfall being reported at the National Weather Service office near the G.R. Ford Airport.

Let’s put this into perspective with some numbers and benchmarks over the years. First, I know many of us recorded at least a trace of snow this Sunday morning (May 15). By definition, that’s not measureable snow. NWS standards say we must be able to measure .10″ or greater for measureable snow. That said, I also know there were several of us, including NWS co-co-rahs measuring sites (with people that conduct the observations) that tallied .20″.

The last time we had any snow on this date was a trace back in 1973. The latest snowfall we’ve ever had in the month of May is a bit trickier due to possible hail contamination, which would register as snow. May 18, 1915 was the latest in the year that Grand Rapids measured any snow (it was .20″).  The last time we had a .10″ or greater in May was May 1, 1994 (.10″).

The NWS began taking official weather observations in 1890, but the snow fall reports probably weren’t reliable until about 1900/1901. Only 12 years are actually on record since 1901 with measureable May snow. That said, May 2016 will NOT be one of them unless we can get a snow shower over the NWS office and they tally .10″ or more sometime today. It will, however, go down in the books as one of the latest trace amounts of snow in the season.

Sue Lorenz

Kevin Craig

Carl Civis

As FOX 17 Meteorologist Ty Shesky posted in an article Saturday (see it here), May 14, 2016 we also recorded a trace of snow/graupel. You’d need to go all the way back to May 14, 1953 to find the last time we had a trace on that date. By the way, most of what we saw Saturday was graupel. It’s basically a flake of snow that falls, is covered or rimed with super-cooled water droplets (water that can remain liquid below 32 degrees), and then it encases or covers the flake. It’s similar to a snow pellet, or as Forecaster Tracy Hinson noted Dippin’ Dots ice cream. See her story and graphic here. Below is a graphic from the National Weather Service in Grand Rapids showing top 12 May snowfalls in the last 100+ years.

We’ve got another cold night coming up tonight in to Monday morning with temps expected to fall in to the 30s again, but another warm up will commence over the next few days. I would venture to say this is the last snow we will see this season! Get the complete forecast