In The Bullseye: Lake Effect Snow in Michiana - Fox 28: South Bend, Elkhart IN News, Weather, Sports

In The Bullseye: Lake Effect Snow in Michiana


Here comes another Michiana winter, and that means lake effect snow. We went to the National Weather Service and tracked down an expert on this winter menace to see exactly what makes the stuff that can shut us down tick. We found Sam Lashley, senior meteorologist.

"There are a few factors that we look for, like moisture content, the makeup of the clouds upstream, but the temp difference is the big one that we look for," says Lashley.

Some other components you need include wind direction off the lake, wind speed, local topography, and a relatively warm lake.  "You want water temps about where we're seeing right now, with low to mid-50s, and then you want a very cold air mass that comes out of Canada that crosses the lake."

With this information, we enlisted his help to find two places in Michiana hit hard by lake effect.  The first is the place that has gotten the biggest lake effect snow event and the second is the place that gets the most lake effect snow each year. 

The biggest snow event wasn't too hard to find. It's at South Bend Regional Airport, where the official records are taken. Back in 2011, they recorded 36 inches of snow in 36 hours. That's 3 feet!

Okay, now we have the biggest event.  How about the place that sees the most in a season?

"That tends to be across northern Berrien County around Paw Paw Lake," says Lashley.  It's the 'hot spot' for lake effect snow with 90 to 95 inches of snow on average for a season.

After hearing that, we had to find out how the locals deal with the piles of snow.  We hit up a diner near Paw Paw Lake in Coloma, MI called, fittingly, "Hot Spot" and we were surprised what we heard.

"Doesn't bother me, I enjoy snow," said one customer.  "I enjoy winter, the different changes of the season."

"It does make things a little more challenging," said another.        

We did find someone who tends to migrate south when the lake effect snow season hits. She said, "We had a lot when we were in Grand Rapids too. It's normal for Michigan but we are going south for a couple months this year."

When you can't migrate with the birds, we found there are some things that "grind the gears" of people, like Hot Spot owner Gary Jewell: Drivers.

"They forget how to drive," Jewell says.  "They do 60 to 70 miles per hour, and no, you can't do that, you know?

While most people we found around here say they don't mind the snow too much, Gary says it does start getting to people after a while. "By February or March they're a little grumpier. They've had enough," Gary explains.

That's still a long-way off, but in case you're not a snow person, our expert does say there is one thing that makes lake effect easier to deal with over system snow.  "System snow is heavy and backbreaking," says Lashley.  "So if I'm shoveling, I want lake effect."

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