“The snow that flies today slept last night in Lake Superior”

Snow on the road

Let’s pretend that you’re driving along a back-country road in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.  It’s early December.  It’s–of course–snowing.

You ponder the beauty of snow.  You ponder the possible treachery of snow. 

You suddenly remember a phrase that a friend used last winter.  “The snow that flies today slept last night in Lake Superior.”

Snow on the old Studebaker car

Let’s get down to Snow Basics 101.  This is what every Yooper (Upper Peninsula shoveler or snow plower) learns early.

There are two ways in which we get our snow.  Please find your notebook and pen.  There will be a quiz.

The first way we get snow is a system roars in from–usually–the west.  Sometimes it barrels in from another direction (like the deep south or east or north) surprising us.  But usually it arrives from Wisconsin and Minnesota.  Sometimes it tiptoes in with a few flakes.  It is a “weather system” and the snow comes from elsewhere.

Snow on branches

However, those of us who live along the Great Lakes are prone to a variety of snow called Lake Effect Snow.  Everyone knows what lake effect snow is?

Here is Wikipedia’s wise explanation, pasted and copied just for inquiring minds:

Lake-effect snow is produced in the winter when cold winds move across long expanses of warmer lake water, providing energy and picking up water vapor which freezes and is deposited on the leeward shores. The same effect over bodies of salt water is called ocean effect snow, sea effect snow, or even bay effect snow. The effect is enhanced when the moving air mass is uplifted by the orographic effect of higher elevations on the downwind shores. This uplifting can produce narrow but very intense bands of precipitation, which deposit at a rate of many inches of snow each hour, often resulting in copious snowfall totals. The areas affected by lake-effect snow are called snowbelts. This effect occurs in many locations throughout the world but is best known in the populated areas of the Great Lakes of North America, and especially Western New York, southwestern and central Ontario, northwestern and northcentral Indiana (mostly between Gary, IN and Elkhart, IN, western Michigan and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, which can average over 200 inches (5 meters) of snow per year and averages the most snow of any non-mountainous location within the continental U.S.

Snow on tip of spruce tree

So there you have it.  “The snow that flies today slept last night in Lake Superior.”  It was water last night–another substance altogether.  It was One with lake trout and whitefish and algae.  It never dreamed it would be transformed in less than twenty-four hours into a crystal flake of snow!  It never dreamed…

And perhaps tonight it will fall gently back into the lake which gave it birth, returning to liquid water once more.  Until the day–very soon, I suspect–when the ice forms thick on the bays and one day in 2011 the ice fishermen will drill holes into the ice to find the water below in which silver-finned fish circle in depths of 280 feet, in waters which perhaps have transformed from snow to water.

Snow on cattails

I find myself scurrying a lot in the cold weather, shutting down, attempting to maintain body heat.  The temperature lingers in the 20’s.  The weather forecast announces “Snow” for days on end. 

We are actually not in one of the prime lake effect areas of the Upper Peninsula.  The Keweenaw receives much more lake effect snow.  There is an area between Marquette and Munising (to our east) which you pray not to drive in mid-winter as lake effect snow never seems to cease falling.

More snow on branches

Are we ready for our quiz?  No peeking back!  Unlike me, you should have read these words very carefully, digesting them. 

Quiz:  what is a snow belt?  (Is it a belt snow wears to keep itself up?  Is it a noise that snow makes when it hits rooftops?) 

Who wants to come & help shovel?

Are there any volunteers handy with a snow shovel?  Want to come north and wield its weight throughout these lake effect snows?  Expert snow plowers are also welcome.  We haven’t plowed the driveway yet, but it’s getting kind of deep.

Getting deep with the water that slept in Lake Superior last night.

About Kathy

I live in the middle of the woods in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Next to Lake Superior's cold shores. I love to blog.
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46 Responses to “The snow that flies today slept last night in Lake Superior”

  1. I am waiting for the liquid to come our way down here in Illinois….

    I love your photos, so clear, I feel like I am right there next to you while you are taking them.

    Tip of Spruce is my favorite.

    😉

    • Kathy says:

      Good morning, Kim! I am glad you enjoyed the snow photos. Wondering if you have any snow down there in Illinois yet? (Tip of spruce is one of my favorites, too, because I finally learned how to use the manual focus on the new camera!) Have a great day.

  2. Elisa's Spot says:

    ohhhhhhhh thank you!
    now I know for sure what lake effect is!!

    E said she went to bed to flurries and woke to a skiff, took a shower and bam 5 inches on ground and could not see over to the next buildings!

    Is that your studabaker that i can’t spell???

    • Kathy says:

      Elisa, I am glad to have written an educational post–for once! Isn’t it amazing how lake effect snow can come so quickly? Yes, that is our second Studebaker. Not the Studebaker truck, but the Studebaker car. This one is parked in the woods and may never be driven again. Although you never know…

  3. holessence says:

    Kathy – “Snow on the road” looks like a single-clip from a Murder Mystery. It gives me the heebie-jeebies (I love it!). Snow belt? You’re up at the buckle part, and I’m down at the holes part — but we’re both part of the same belt and it’s just as difficult to shovel it regardless of where you’re at on the belt. (I get an “A” – right?)

    • Kathy says:

      Laurie, you get an A!! You especially get an A because you changed the perspective and enlarged the belt. You rock!! (Barry was sure that photo was a black & white…it wasn’t…just another black & white day in Snow Country! No murder mysteries, hopefully.)

  4. PEER REVIEW

    Laurie gets an A and extra credit too…

    I thought the same thing!

  5. P.j. grath says:

    My first winter in Traverse City, 40 years ago, whenever I looked outdoors it was never not snowing. Turned out to be an unusually heavy winter for snow, as the preceding fall had been an unusually brilliant color season. Down here in Leelanau (“down” from where you are, that is!) every year, every season is its own creature. We do get lake effect snow. I’m just hoping not to get or have any of my friends or loved ones get “double” pneumonia, which I just learned–have wondered all my life what it meant–means both lungs are affected. That’s a cheery thought, isn’t it?

    Love your photos!

    • Kathy says:

      My goodness, Pamela, I NEVER knew what double pneumonia was either. I sure hope none of our friends or loved ones get that! You stay healthy… It’s interesting that 40 years ago the heavy snow winter followed a brilliant color season. Wonder if they are connected?

  6. John says:

    Is the title used through literary license from the sign in front of Carla’s door? I love eating there in the winter sitting by the wood stove.

    • Kathy says:

      Too bad Cindy Lou isn’t around–she could tell us, John. I thought the sign by Carla’s said something like “The lake trout you eat tonight slept in Keweenaw Bay last night”??? But there could be a sign about lake effect snow too! (That sounds really cozy. We have to get to Carla’s soon.)

  7. Gerry says:

    We are awaiting the inevitable. Margie, who lives three miles up the Flat Road, says she has eight inches of snow in her yard. Nancy Hellman, who lives in the hills near the Charlevoix County border, got 16 inches, which is a lot even for Nancy, who is intrepid. I do not know how much snow we have gotten here at the Writing Studio and Bait Shop as I am pretending not to notice, but it is not much. The wind has been blowing it clear past us into the high ridges. I would love some nice, fluffy snow and a sunny day. It could happen. Meanwhile, I’m pulling out extra comforters and putting an extra dog on the bed.

    • Kathy says:

      Gerry, isn’t it interesting the different amounts of snow people can get, even though they live in a close radius? I think we have about five inches on the ground right now, though Herman had 11 inches at last notice. Up in the woods they can have lots more. L’Anse usually has much less. (Did you get 15 minutes of sunshine yesterday? It was spectacular here–while it lasted.)

  8. Marianne says:

    I’m in southwestern Ontario. Where does that place me in your snow belt? Or am I way way off? Maybe I’m part of another belt? lol

    I love the snowy pictures. We have snow tonight. I hope is doesn’t last because I have to travel to Toronto tomorrow.

    • Kathy says:

      Marianne, I’m trying to figure out if you would get lake effect snow or not. Or if you would have more “system” snows. I am thinking the latter (people south of Lake Ontario and Erie get most of the lake effect and you are, north, right? However you could get lake effect from Huron… I hope you traveled safely to Toronto.

  9. Karma says:

    Mr. Rebel and snow are still to make their acquaintance. Your Ms. Rebel has had plenty of opportunity it seems. I wonder how long it will be until she wishes for other scenes to shoot!

    You get all this snow and you shovel? No snowblower?

    • Kathy says:

      Is Mr. Rebel getting impatient? Ms. Rebel is already wishing for spring…lol! Actually we only shovel the deck and front porch areas…we use the plow (on the tractor) for the rest of the long driveway.

  10. Ah Kathy your snow photos are splendid. Our snow on Mayne Island is gone and may appear again later in the season or possibly not until next year. We did have a wee bit of frost the other morning though… but only in the valley floor. It was too warm a third of the way up the cliff side where we are.

    We mostly get grey days and rain here on the south west coast of Canada in the winter. It is damp right through to the marrow of your bones. We console ourselves with the fact that we don’t have to shovel it. Good luck with the snow removal.

    • Kathy says:

      Do you wish you had more snow, Terrill?

      Your early-season snow photos were even more special because of your limited snowfalls.

      It is gray here often at this time of year, too. Yesterday the sun peeked out from behind the gray for about 15 minutes. I leapt for the camera but had trouble catching it in between its forays between the clouds and blue sky.

  11. Nice commentary on the snow. Beautiful pictures.Living in WI now, I just don’t see the lake effect when living south of Traverse City. Lake Effect= Excitement and wonder

    • Kathy says:

      Dear Jane, thank you for visiting my blog. You’ll have to drive a little bit farther up north to enjoy some of that lake effect “excitement and wonder”!

  12. “like when living south of Traverse City” oops

  13. Connie Durham says:

    During my high school years,I lived on M-28, 7 miles from the junction of US-41, just past the 1st set of lakeside turnouts…My brother and
    I had many “snow days” because the snow would drift across the highway at the turnouts and the bus couldn’t get through! I always loved lake effect snow!

    • Kathy says:

      Connie, I’ll bet you DID have lots of lake effect snow! That is a crazy area in the U.P. for snow. Hoping you get to see some lake effect wherever you are now. 🙂

  14. Carol says:

    Snow is beautiful everywhere but on the roads. I like looking at it, I like taking pictures of it, I hate driving in it. Life is hard, huh?

    • Kathy says:

      Me too, Carol! I am not a fan of driving on snow, either. You have to go so slow and it can be so challenging. It’s even worse when you have kids driving in it. I am glad both our kids aren’t driving in snow these days.

  15. Reggie says:

    It is so strange to read of snow on your blog, when we have bright blue skies and sweltering sunshine and sunburnt arms and necks down here in the southern hemisphere. What a contrast! Even in the depths of winter, we do not have snow in this place, except in the high mountains, so you are describing a very foreign world… fascinating and scary and beautiful and eerie all at the same time.

    • Kathy says:

      Why is it hard to remember sometimes that others in the world are having very very different experiences? That you are sweltering in sunshine in South Africa while we shiver in the snow and cold in the northern parts of the United States? I am glad to share this foreign world with you.

  16. Lake Ontario is good at this but it hasn’t slept for the last 96 hours and has deposited over 3 feet of snow in my yard with more to come. We’ve had a beautiful year weather wise and it is nice to know we will have a white Christmas this year. 🙂

    • Kathy says:

      Over 3 FEET of snow in your yard, Scott? I swear you are a Lake Effect King, then. You know what it’s all about. Good old Great Lakes and their sleeping snowflakes…

      • If finally ended after over 100 hours and 4 feet of snow. Not much rest for the Lake Ontario, supposed to start up again on Sunday again with bitter cold temps. This is more like mid-January than mid-December type weather. Bundle up, Kathy!

  17. truels says:

    Nice snow pictures you’ve captured here…. Although we have already had too much snow for too long time here in Denmark – last year we had White Christmas for the first time in many years – and now we have had White November AND have White December!

    • Kathy says:

      Isn’t it interesting, Truels, that so many places in the world are getting lots of snow this year? Wonder why? Thank you for liking the snow pictures.

  18. Robin says:

    Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful photos. Even the shovel which is a reminder of the way that winter gives me opportunities to get in some strength training with my cardio. 😉

    In my case, the snow that flies today slept last night in Lake Erie. I live in a snow belt where winter practices the slang versions of the word “belt” by sometimes bringing in those sharp blows of snow, sometimes very quickly (as in belting down the highway).

    • Kathy says:

      Good way of looking at that shoveling, Ms. Robin! It’s good healthy exercise doing shoveling. Barry was asking where you lived yesterday. I said, “Um, somewhere out east.” He frowned at me. He wanted to know the specific state. I’m closer now. I’ll tell him you’re just south of Lake Erie. (or I could go look on your blog, lol!)

  19. sonali says:

    Can I come to help you ? please! I want to come 🙂

  20. No snow any longer here, Kathy. Rain and wind chased it off. We even had lightning ! I love your pictures of a real snowy Winter when every twig and branch becomes precious and unique. Soft and silent mood in this wonderful series..

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