winter

Sami / Flickr

Those of us who lived through last winter are now familiar with the term "polar vortex." But are we using that phrase correctly? Sara Schultz is a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in White Lake. Exactly what IS the polar vortex? And what is it not?

Listen to Sara Schultz above

Today on Stateside:

  • Road funding is once again being discussed in Lansing, but Chris Kolb says we need to think beyond just fixing roads and bridges. Find out where he thinks the state should invest more of its money.
  • A good meal can become a great meal if the restaurant has the right ambiance. For example, good music can improve the overall experience. But what about the other way around? Interlochen Public Radio’s David Cassleman talks about a conductor and chef who are teaming up in Traverse City to find out.
  • Ypsilanti singer-songerwriter and Civil War history buff Matt Jones has a new album out called “The Deep Enders.” See what he has to say about his Civil War influences and song writing for “The Deep Enders.”
Morgue File

 

The candidates for governor agree something needs to be done about Michigan's crumbling roads.

In our recent conversation with MSU economist Charlie Ballard, he reminded us that we're going to pay for road repairs one way or another. Maybe higher taxes or, in Ballard's case, paying now, with blown tires and bent rims.

But, is there some kind of silver lining to the crummy roads? Maybe for local repair shops?

Rick Kilbourn owns 4th Street Auto Care in Royal Oak. He's been in business since the 1970's.

Salt trucks
Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Advance word from forecasters: This winter could be a replay of the not-to-be-forgotten winter of 2013-2014.

That is not good news for counties still reeling from the costs of clearing record amounts of snow from the roads.

Roy Townsend, Managing Director of the Washtenaw County Road Commission, says the brutal winter last year cost the county nearly $1 million more than what a typical winter would cost. That's between the increased salt price, overtime pay for staff, and extra wear and tear on the equipment. 

user farlane / flickr

The rough winter of 2013-2014 was not kind to Michigan grapes.

And we're going to see that in the wine grape crop this year.

Linda Jones is executive director at Michigan Grape and Wine Industry Council. Jones projects a 50% reduction in wine output due to the harsh winter. 

user:yooperann / Flickr

The U.S. Forest Service has put out a report on how our warming climate is affecting forests in the U.P.

Stephen Handler is a climate change specialist with the Forest Service. He says, over the past several decades, we’ve been getting more extreme rainstorms in the region.

“So, more rain of two inches at a time, three inches at a time; and we’re seeing our winters, which is our characteristic climatic feature, shrinking, so, getting shorter and getting more variable, or getting less consistent snowpack,” he says.

LisaW123 / Flickr

This story was updated at 8:07 on 8/28/14.

Winter weather is still a few months away – we hope – but road agencies are already preparing for the season.

And they're dealing with a spike in salt prices. The statewide average for road salt is about $66 per ton. That's up nearly 50% from last year.

Michigan's County Road Association says high demand from last winter means vendors haven't been able to adequately restock.

Ed Noyola is the association's deputy director.

user: Njaelkies Lea / Wikimedia Commons

If you've been wondering why your favorite pine tree has been turning brown as the weather warms up, you can stop wondering and start blaming winter.

Bert Cregg is an associate professor in the horticulture department at Michigan State University. He joined us to explain what the snow, cold and wind has done to our conifer trees. 

Listen to the full interview above. 

user: Phil Roeder / Flickr

Farmers are finally able to head out into their fields, orchards and vineyards to see how everything fared over the winter. 

Ken Nye is a commodities specialist with the Michigan Farm Bureau. 

He's expecting a lot of damage to Michigan fruits. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

UPDATE: Proving that Mother Nature loves a good joke, the burning of the snowman has been postponed until Friday because of snow and high winds. No, seriously.

Today is the first day of spring.

Since 1971, Lake Superior State University has marked the first day of spring by setting fire to a paper snowman.

Researchers are going to find out how well rubberized asphalt will resist potholes.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

State lawmakers will roll out a deal this afternoon on a spending package to fix Michigan’s pothole-filled roads.

The supplement funding bill is expected to include $200 million for local road agencies. Brutal winter weather has drained county and city road budgets.

State House Speaker Jase Bolger declined to give specifics about the compromise road bill this morning, except to say it will address the state’s immediate road problems.

Jodi Benchich (right), owner of the lost dog rescued by the Coast Guard on Monday, and Michelle Heyza, founder of A Rejoyceful Rescue, are all smiles during their time with KC at Wilson Veterinary Hospital, March 5, 2014. The crew of the Coast Guard Cutte
Kim Gordus / U.S. Coast Guard

Update: 11:08 a.m., March 7, 2014

The 14-year-old pup we wrote about earlier in the week was reunited with its owner (woman on the right):

From the Coast Guard's press release:

Jodi Benchich of St. Clair Shores, Mich., visited with her 14-year-old pet “KC” at the Wilson Veterinary Hospital before taking him back home. The dog sustained frostbite on his paws and also lost a significant amount of weight during the time he was lost.

"KC is happy to be back home and is eating everything we give him," said a very happy Benchich. "We're forever grateful to the Coast Guard and hope to be able to thank the crew in person sometime soon."

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The brutal winter weather is taking a toll on Michigan retailers.

A major ice storm just before Christmas resulted in poor overall holiday season sales for many Michigan stores.

The brutally cold January that followed was just as bad, according to a new report by the Michigan Retailers Association, which says 46% of retailers report their sales were down last month, compared to January 2013. Only 30% said their cash registers were busier.

The gloom created by slow sales may carry over into the rest of the year.

user: frizz-art / Deviant Art

We've all had plenty to grumble about as this long, cold, snowy winter drags on: sidewalks and driveways to shovel, grueling, slow freeway commutes.

But let's take a moment to try on winter from the perspective of the hard-working Michigan dairy farmer. Winter has a whole different feel when you're hauling yourself out to the barn to milk and feed your herd. 

Karen Curry, a dairy farmer near East Tawas, knows this life very well. She joins us today to tell us how she's coping with this brutal winter weather. 

Listen to the full interview above.

user mconnors / morgueFile

Winter doesn't just mean freezing temperatures  – it's also a time when we are more likely to get sick. Which leads us to our next question: Do you vaccinate your kids?

It seems for more and more Michigan parents, the answer is no. 

When it comes to kids not getting vaccinated because their parents claim some personal or religious exemption, Michigan ranks number four in the nation. 

But resistance to vaccinations didn't just start with Jenny McCarthy or the study by British doctor Andrew Wakefield that alleged a link between vaccines and autism – a study that has since been discredited as being based on faulty science. 

It goes back long before that.

Gender and medical historian Jacqueline Antonovich has studied and written about the history of our relationship with vaccinations. 

Antonovich recently wrote in the blog nursingclio.org about this topic, and it was pretty personal for her, as someone who has had whooping cough.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A new round of harsh winter weather is on the way. Snow, rain, and freezing rain are all part of the forecast for the Lower Peninsula, and the Upper Peninsula could be in for a blizzard.

Dealing with this year’s record and near-record cold and snow is already busting budgets as overtime, equipment, and supply costs are going higher than planned.

“This is a record winter in terms of cold, snow and we still have more to come,” said Gov. Rick Snyder.  

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Temperatures are expected to hit 40 degrees in the coming week in Michigan.

The warm up should begin to melt off some of the snow that has built up over the past few months.

But the melting snow is also expected to reveal mounds of fallen tree branches, discarded Christmas trees and garbage that has been entombed in mounds of snow and ice since December.

Paul Dykema is the assistant superintendent in the city of Lansing’s Public Service Department.  He says cleaning that mess up will take some time.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Michigan wildlife is struggling this winter, just like the state’s human population.

State wildlife officials say the next few weeks will be critical for Michigan deer, pheasants, and other animals.

As the days grow longer, animals become more active. Their metabolisms pick up and they need to forage for more food.

But when the snow is several feet deep, and a layer of ice coats normal food sources, finding enough food can be a problem.

Consumers Energy

Consumers Energy and DTE are waiting to hear from electric utilities in the south and east that are bearing the brunt of a strong winter storm this week.

Tens of thousands of people in the Deep South have already lost power from the storm that is raining down large amounts of ice and snow in places that rarely see either.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

HOWELL, Mich. (AP) - Michigan's weather-prognosticating woodchuck has called for six more weeks of winter.

The Detroit Free Press and The Detroit News report that Woody stayed put in her home at the Howell Conference and Nature Center on Sunday morning, taken to mean there won't be an early end to the state's cold, white winter.

Nature center Executive Director Dick Grant tells the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus that Woody is 11-4 in weather predictions.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - State officials say they are processing credits to help low-income customers with their winter energy bills.

The Michigan Public Service Commission said this week that state treasury officials have mailed instruction booklets and forms pertaining to the Michigan Home Heating Credits for the 2013 tax year.

The materials also are available online and at many libraries, post offices and Department of Human Services' branch offices.

The average credit for last year was $124.

Bill Brinkman / NASA

Michigan may be “warming up” (31 degree heat wave, anyone?), but evidence of the latest snowpocalypse is still abundant.  

Over at MLive, meteorologist Mark Torregrossa reports that “mile for mile, Michigan has more snow cover than any other U.S. state.”

And as for ice, the Great Lakes are under the largest ice cover in 20 years. Sixty percent of all five lakes are now iced over.

user kajeburns / Twitter

It's similar to a 100-year flood event. It just doesn't happen that often.

So when it does, students celebrate. That's what happened last night when the University of Michigan called off classes for the first time in 36 years. 

The student journalists over at the Michigan Daily collected the best reactions on Twitter to the news.

Here are the best stunned faces, celebratory waffles, and trips to the liquor store:

Have you forgotten about the snow already?
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

ALPENA, Mich. (AP) — Bitterly cold weather is lingering across Michigan, with readings below zero and more snow in the forecast for parts of the state.

The National Weather Service reports Wednesday morning it was 18 degrees below zero in Alpena in the northeastern Lower Peninsula. Frigid readings came in throughout Michigan, including 17 below in Ann Arbor and 15 below in Port Huron in the southern Lower Peninsula.

In Detroit, a reading of zero degrees was reported. And it dipped to 3 degrees below zero at Detroit Metropolitan airport in Romulus.

The bitter cold is expected to continue for several more days. In western Michigan, 3 to 5 inches of snow is forecast Wednesday and into Thursday morning. And more lake-effect snow is expected along parts of Lake Superior in the Upper Peninsula.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. (AP) - Another round of frigid air is making its way into Michigan, leaving roads slippery as dangerously cold temperatures are expected in places this week.

In suburban Detroit, state police reported multiple crashes on the freeway system.

In the Upper Peninsula community of Sault Ste. Marie, it's 5 degrees below zero on Monday morning.

A hazardous weather outlook was issued for much of the state, with wind chill readings of 10 to 20 degrees below expected late Monday and early Tuesday in the southern Lower Peninsula.

user GlenArborArtisans / YouTube

While temperatures are (finally) starting to climb out of subzeros across Michigan, signs of the so-called polar vortex – a low-pressure system that brought arctic temperatures across the country – are still lingering throughout the state.

For instance, boulder-sized ice balls have taken hold of the shores of Lake Michigan. Here’s a video captured on the lake’s coast in Glen Arbor, Michigan:

As MLive’s Heidi Fenton reported, the chunks form when large ice sheets break off into smaller pieces of ice. When waves hit the ice sheets, the ice chunks form into perfectly round, frigid spheres, with some estimated to weigh about 75 pounds.

If temperatures stay low enough, the ice balls – which our webmaster claims look exactly like chocolate truffles he has at home – may continue to grow, AccuWeather.com reported:

"It's possible that the ice is accreting like a snowball or like a hailstone, and that they keep growing," said AccuWeather.com Meteorologist Jim Andrews.

www.parkwhiz.com

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) - Snow and ice are creating hazardous driving conditions in Michigan.

MLive.com reports 10 slide-offs and minor crashes Monday morning across parts of western Michigan.

No serious injuries were immediately reported. Much of western Michigan is fresh off of seeing anywhere from 1 to 4 inches of snow on Sunday. Slippery roads also were reported in other parts of the state, including the Detroit and Kalamazoo areas.

The National Weather Service says the most snow is forecast in parts of Michigan's Upper Peninsula and northern Lower Peninsula, where advisories urging caution were issued. By the time the snow wraps up Monday, a total of 3 to 8 inches is expected in Chippewa and Mackinac counties.

user Cseeman / Flickr

As I grabbed my gloves and heavy coat this morning, I noted that the thermometer was 33. Just ten days ago, it was 79 degrees. That’s Michigan's weather for you — always keeping us on our toes.

With talk of snowflakes in Flint and friends in Northern Michigan grumbling on Facebook about predictions of snow on October 22, we wondered: Is Michigan facing an early winter?

Meteorologist Mark Torregrossa joins us to discuss what’s ahead for Michigan weather.

Listen to the full interview above.

user Explore the Bruce / Flickr

Frida Waara is an instructor in the upcoming Becoming an Outdoors Woman event this weekend in the Upper Peninsula's Big Bay, sponsored by the Department of Natural Resources.

The event will help women - even the most devoted Netflixers - develop skills that encourage and maintain an active lifestyle during a Michigan winter.

So, how does Waara get women to be active outdoors when the weather drops below zero?

Michigan Radio's Cynthia Canty spoke with Waara about the program and the importance for women to be active year round.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

COMMERCE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) - Southeastern Michigan residents are making the best of the region's first big snowstorm of the season, which peaked during the evening rush hour and snarled road traffic and air travel.

The fringe of the storm pushed into populous metropolitan Detroit on Wednesday afternoon, and the National Weather Service says it should taper off Thursday.

Snowfalls were topping half a foot by late Wednesday, with 6.5 inches already on the ground in Ann Arbor.

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