NOT AGAIN! Eight inches of snow hits Big Rapids in rare mid-April storm

Ferris State University student Amy Bell is pictured purchasing ice cream at State Street Scoops, which opened for the season Monday. (Pioneer photo/Tim Rath)

BIG RAPIDS — After several days of sunny skies and temperatures reaching into the 60s, snow returned to the Big Rapids area on Sunday, causing traffic crashes, school cancellations and plenty of consternation from people seeking a reprieve from Old Man Winter.

The National Weather Service (NWS) declared a winter weather advisory and the Big Rapids water treatment plant reported eight inches of snowfall from a storm which started early Sunday afternoon and stretched through the evening hours.

Several local area school districts, including Big Rapids, Evart, Morley Stanwood, Crossroads Charter Academy, Reed City and others, started school on a three-hour delay, while Chippewa Hills canceled school all together.

“We used to do two-hour delays, and we switched to three for this one. It’s a really good system. It gives you enough time to make a decision about the rest of the day, and it keeps kids in a good rhythm. They get to school and it’s lunchtime. We’ve had some conversations already, like, ‘This may have started a new precedent for us,'” said Morley Stanwood Superintendent Roger Cole.

Morley Stanwood is among many school districts throughout the state that altered their last day of school to accommodate for the number of snow days called this year. The district was previously getting out June 3; now the last day is June 14.

“We hope this is the last big storm of winter,” Cole said. “We don’t want to put the last day off again.”

Mecosta County Sheriff Todd Purcell said a number of traffic crashes were reported.

“Generally, people stayed indoors and off the roads. There were crashes, but no serious injuries were reported. We got lucky,” Purcell said.
NWS forecaster William Marino said the late-season snow was a rarity in the state, with only a couple of recent precedents; in 2005 and 1961. He said it was caused by a mass of cold air from a storm system near Cincinnati, Ohio, climbing north and coming into contract with another mass from the Lake Superior area.

“These storms are not unheard of, but they are — for some people, fortunately — infrequent,” Marino said. “It’s hard to get the right set-up this time of year. A lot of times, when a storm takes that track, they don’t have enough cold air to create snow.”

By midday Monday, the temperature in Big Rapids had climbed up near 50 degrees and the sun was out. The situation appeared to be “back to normal” for many. State Street Scoops, the ice cream shop in Big Rapids, opened for the season on Monday, and Sophia Johnson and Amy Bell bought some soft-serve to eat, in spite of the snow on the ground.

“I wasn’t sure if they’d be open, but I thought, if they were, I’m going to get ice cream, whatever the weather is,” said Johnson, 22, a student at Ferris State University. “We had a big quiz this morning, so this is in celebration. Sun or snow.”

This week’s forecast doesn’t appear to be too much nicer than it was on Sunday, according to the NWS. The high on Tuesday is forecast for 52, with rain expected. Temperatures are expected to drop as low as 38. The rest of the week should feature a lot more rain, with the forecasted high topping out at 66 on Thursday and the low predicted to be 48.

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Posted by Tim Rath

Tim is the Pioneer's associate editor. He also coordinates the Family & Friends, Religion and Veterans pages. He can be reached by phone at (231) 592-8386 or by e-mail at trath@pioneergroup.com.

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