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Past Emergency Events

The Blizzard of January, 1999

Freeway finally cleared, at least partially, the day after the blizzard...but several more snowstorms were brewing for the month of January.

February 4, 1999

Twenty-eight counties have been added to the snow emergency declaration issued by President Clinton last week. A total of 29 Michigan counties are now eligible for federal disaster assistance as a result of last month's severe snowstorm.

The counties now eligible to apply for emergency assistance include: Alcona, Allegan, Arenac, Barry, Berrien, Cass, Crawford, Ionia, Jackson, Kalamazoo, Kent, Lenawee, Macomb, Marquette, Mecosta, Montmorency, Muskegon, Newaygo, Oakland, Oceana, Ogemaw, Osceola, Oscoda, Otsego, Ottawa, St. Joseph, Van Buren, Washtenaw and Wayne.

President Clinton approved the emergency declaration on January 27 following receipt of a request from the Governor's Office.  At that time, only Wayne County was designated for federal assistance.

The Emergency Management Division of the Michigan State Police (MSP/EMD), which administers funding assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), made the request on behalf of the additional counties. FEMA officials made the designation to add the counties after reviewing additional information from the National Weather Service and other sources regarding "record" or "near record" snowfall for these areas.

"By helping these communities with their emergency costs, we are helping every taxpayer in the area," Lawrence L. Bailey, federal coordinating officer for FEMA, said.  "However, this emergency declaration does not cover snow removal or repair costs expenses for individuals or business owners."

Under the presidential emergency disaster declaration, Washtenaw County, other affected local governments, and certain private non-profit organizations are eligible to apply for federal assistance to fund 75 percent of the approved costs, during a 48-hour period.  The funds cover eligible costs for snow removal equipment operations, contract personnel and equipment, and overtime for permanent personnel.  Related emergency protective measures such as sanding and salting, search and rescue, shelter operations, and police and fire departments' response may also be eligible for reimbursement.

State and federal officials have both stressed the importance of communities' record keeping in this type of declaration where federal funds will reimburse specific local costs.  "Having accurate, well-documented time records for equipment and personnel will speed up the reimbursement process," Captain Edward G. Buikema, the director of MSP/EMD, said.

MSP/EMD contacted the Washtenaw County Emergency Management Division on Thursday February 4, who has in turn set up a briefing for local officials on Friday, February 12 to provide information on the snow emergency assistance program.  State and federal representatives will be available to explain what costs are eligible, how to report equipment and personnel information, payment procedures, and answer any questions that officials may have concerning the assistance program.

For more information, contact the Washtenaw County Emergency Management Division at (734) 971-1152.

What Happened

January 1999 was one of the snowiest Januarys and snowiest months on record in southeast lower Michigan. The Detroit area had its 2nd snowiest January on record and the 9th snowiest month since 1880.  The Saginaw area had its 3rd snowiest January and 4th snowiest month this century. Finally...Flint Bishop Airport had its 5th snowiest January and 5th snowiest month since 1942. The reason why we saw so much snow was due to a rather active storm track (which is quite common during La Ninas) and much below normal temperatures which persisted across the area through mid January.

A third of this snow occurred on January 2nd and 3rd when a strong winter storm moved through mid Mississippi Valley and Western Great Lakes. Widespread heavy snow began in Southeast Lower Michigan late during the morning of January 2nd and continued into the early morning hours of January 3rd.  Through record-breaking snowfall amounts did not occur...the 11.3" that Detroit Metro Airport received was the most snow in one storm since 11.1" fell on January 13-14, 1992. This was the 15th largest snow storm to hit the Detroit area since 1880.  The 8.5" which fell at Flink Bishop Airport was the most for the Flint area since March 19-20, 1986 when 8.4" fell.  It was also their 16th largest snow storm since 1948.  at Tri-Cities Airport in Freeland...13.2" was reported during the storm.  this was the most snow from a winter storm since January 13, 1979.  elsewhere in Southeast Lower Michigan...between 10 and 15 inches of snow fell over many areas South of M-59 and from 5 to 13 inches was reported from M-59 North into the Saginaw Valley and Thumb Area.  The highest total reported was in Ann Arbor where 15.9" fell.  The least reported was in Corunna in Shiawassee County where 5.5" was observed. During the remainder of the month...we saw several rounds of 1 to 4 inch snowfalls.

The Data

The Detroit area has its 2nd snowiest January on record...
The Detroit area has its 9th snowiest month on record. During January 1999...27.3 inches of snow fell at Detroit Metro Airport.  NORMALLY...10.0 inches of snow falls during January. This was the 2nd snowiest January ever in the Detroit area (records go back to January 1880).  The snowiest January ever occurred back in 1978 when 29.6 inches fell.

Also...January 1999 was the 9th snowiest month on record. The snowiest month ever in the Detroit area occured back in February 1908. During that month...38.4 inches of snow fell. This is remarkable considering the Detroit area normally sees 41.7 inches during a snowfall season (October through May).  January 1999 was the snowiest month since January 1978.

The following tables give the top 10 snowiest Januarys and months for the Detroit area since 1880...

Rank Snowiest
1 1978-29.6" February 1908-38.4"
2 1999-27.4" December 1974-34.9"
3 1987-24.0" March 1900-30.2"
4 1893-23.1" January 1978-29.6"
5 1910-22.2" February 1881-28.5"
6 1929-22.1" February 1926-28.0"
7 1914-21.8" February 1900-28.0"
8 1881-21.8" December 1929-27.4"
9 1895-21.5" January 1999-27.3"
10 1939-21.1" April 1886-25.7"

The following table gives the January snowfall for each day at Detroit Metro Airport...

Date Snowfall
Date Snowfall
1 Trace 17 None
2 10.6" 18 0.1"
3 0.7" 19 None
4 Trace 20 None
5 None 21 None
6 2.1" 22 None
7 Trace 23 None
8 2.3" 24 0.5"
9 Trace 25 3.5"
10 0.5" 26 None
11 3.3" 27 None
12 1.5" 28 None
13 2.0" 29 None
14 0.2" 30 None
15 Trace 31 None
16 Trace    

Total January 1999 snowfall in Detroit Area 27.3"...

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