Storm Approaches


Eagle Harbor Web

An unofficial source of Eagle Harbor, Michigan news, views and information.

Winter Storm Approaches

The Week's Weather Journal.

"...when we don't live with birds or weather or waves we lose the opportunity to think hard about ourselves, to discover from nature important facts about human nature."
(excerpted from Nancy Lord's, Fishcamp)

The Week Of January 4, 1998


The harbor freezes over today. All but the center, which exposed to the open lake and a stiffening northerly wind is too turbulant to freeze. Not a very pretty frreze...looks like a frozen daiquiri streaked with coal dust. It's not dirt, just dark water peeking through the thinner slush. When the wind backs or veers to a more southerly origin, this will all move out into the open lake and dissolve. If the waves begin to build off the lake, it will break up. All that, of course, unless we get a long deep freeze...unlikely in this El Nino year. The scanner comes alive in early afternoon, just as most of the Copper Country is settling down to watch their favorite Packers in the NFL Playoffs. A big fire in Hubbell at the Loading Zone bar, a popular Portage area gathering place. Volunteer fireman from several area communities quickly respond, abandoning the Packers, their families and the warmth of their homes on this last day of the holiday season. They are still at the scene as I retire for the night. Last Wednesday evening, just as Harbor New Year's Eve parties were getting into full swing, our volunteer fire department was summoned to assist at a major home fire on the Lac La Belle Road, near the Big Betsy River, not far from Gay. (All the local volunteer fire departments are in a mutual aid pact, helping each other at major fires... a big plus for all of us.) Joe Monroe, Bruce Olson, Mike Radigan, Jake Anderson, Don Keith, Vern Robinson, Wayne Sickler, Bob Masanado, Doug Harrer, John Clarkson, and Don Koop all shed their party duds, don their fire fighting gear, and drive off into the cold, dark night. Most did not return home until after 2 a.m., exhausted and dirty. We are darn lucky to have men like that in our midst. Tell them so the next time you see any of them!


Several morning attempts to call my docs in Marquette are frustrated by repeated, "Sorry, all circuits are busy". A sure sign that the holiday respite is over and most of the world is back at work or school. (Also a sign of inadequate UP phone service.) Those few of us who hold onto this usually snow blanketed and always "cut off from the world" Superior outpost through the lean winter months, are sometimes forgetful of what a cocoon existence we live in. It's hard to believe that most folks are so engaged in their commerce of services and thought that communication systems get overloaded. (That's only because I'm forgetful, perhaps selectively...I've had a full life of such times.) My day, by contrast, is like that of many about here....poking a fire, reading a good book (at the moment, "Cold Mountain", best read in years!), watching the lake and harbor ice combat the waves, chatting with a neighbor, doing some writing, walking in the woods, dreaming of a summer's sail. The weather of early January at the Harbor fosters such behavior, this tendency to draw intellectual stimuli for thought and activity from within oneself. The dark lake, crowding grey overcast, bleak and motionless landscape...a barren field offering little energy for the psyche. So you dig among your stored chesnuts of experiences, of interests, of motivational triggers. All gathered in the richness of life, in times of expansionary thought, often with the energy and wonder of the natural world as a catalyst. My cupboard is full. How fortunate I am.


Walked through the pinery today. A bit more snow than last week, but still not enough for decent cross-country skiing. What there are a lot of are pheasants, an amazing number of them. Abby delights in flushing anything, but pheasants seem to be her favorite. The heavy fluttering sound of nesting birds taking flight is startling. Fresh deer track is also much in evidence, but the deer remain hidden from view...probably spooked away by the ruckus of Abby working the point. Except for the sound of pheasants in flight, the woods are very quiet. Little wind means no distant roar of lakeshore surf, no rustle of brushing boughs, and no whistling of air working its way through the forest canopy. There is only the steady staccato of my boots breaking through the thin layer of crusty snow. When I stop to rest, which I do often, I occasionally detect the whine of a snowmobile pack on a distant trail. Before returning to camp, I walk along the seawall at the Lakebreeze to observe lake activity among the harbor entry rocks and reefs. Waves roll in, seemingly more out of habit than in earnest, and wander aimlessly through crevices in the tilted layers of basalt and conglomerate that define our edge of the submerged Superior basin. There is movement, but no energy. The horizon is empty, the lakers and salties retired to their winter berths. The lighthouse, nonetheless, remains on duty, its white then red beacon rotating, sending its distinctive pattern of blinks and sweeping beams out into the empty lake....for reason I do not comprehend.


The Cat Harbor Enterprise partners are busy in the "snow stick factory" producing thermometers 400 - 600. Incredible! What started as a project to make the ten or so I needed for our monthly snowfall forecast contest winners has gotten completely out of hand. We'll keep it up as long as we are still having fun, or until the more important things in life, like cross-country skiing (if we ever get snow), sailing or fishing intervene...whichever comes first. If you haven't got yours by then, you'll be out of luck. Our families, like most rational people, think we have gone a little berserk. My California daughter is sure it's evidence of dad's advancing senility! Hey, it's not so bad. What better way to wait out the grey days of this El Nino devestated winter, than being with good friends, happily engaged in making little do dads that seemingly give so many folks pleasure...and make a few bucks to help pay our Harbor Inn bills in the process?


Hopes rise as news of warm, moist air from the Gulf about to collide with an approaching Canadian Clipper flood the airways. Indeed, there is an unsettled feel to the weather. The wind is increasing and slowly backing from east to north. The lake surface is energetic and noisy. The ever present flat layer of lethargic low laying clouds begins to break apart, rebuild into three dimensional dark bottomed shapes, and scurry across our sky with a sense of purpose. Mid day air temperature remains unseasonable warm but by day's end a chilling, not just a cooling, moves off the lake. Window and door frame cracks, long silent, suddenly begin to whistle as the building wind pushes its way into my camp. The fireplace flue begins to howl. Abby, always spooked by this eerie sound, moves from her hearth station and huddles at my feet. Something's up!


At dawn no more than light snow and a lot of blowing snow. But by mid-morning it really began to look as it should look in Keweenaw and early January. Lots of snow in the air and accumulations getting beyond the "brooming" stage. The forecast is for as much as 18", with most to occur over the weekend when the now light easterly wind is expected to strengthen and swing around to the west and northwest. This is GREAT! True, we are lacking the big roadside drifts that are the usual norm for a Keweenaw January, and this is certainly not up to our blizzard standards, but heck, after many weeks of nearly bare ground, little wind, and spring-like temperatures, this wintry show is a delight. The fluffy, very beautiful pure white snow from the east continues for most of the day, but about six p.m., as I head up to the Inn for the usual Friday evening gathering, the wind ceases, the sky suddenly clears, and a nearly full moon spreads its reflective light across the all white and suddenly still landscape. Tall pines and drooping cedars, obscurbed all day in the swirling snow, now loom majestically in the star studded blue tinted night sky, their heavily snow blanketed needle clusters bathed in the white moonlight. I stand outside the Inn for awhile, spellbound by the scene about me and wondering what happened to our forecasted "all weekend" storm. Turns out it was one of nature's little reminders of her subtle ways. Within an hour, as our little group was feasting on Mary's finest and appreciatively observing the magic outside the big dining room window, new clouds suddenly hid the moon and stars and a blast of now westerly wind lifted snow from ground and tree, the swirling white totally obscuring our view. We had apparently been briefly visited by the eye of the storm, like that of a hurricane. As I headed back to camp conditions really began to deteriorate. Heavy snow from the lake, strong winds and rapidly dropping temperature. Perhaps we are going to have a good old fashioned blizzard after all. I dig some firewood from the buried wood pile, check to be certain doors are tightly shut, and retreat for the night.


Holywha! This is a REAL storm. We are not getting as much snow as up the hill (19" reported at Phoenix), but visability has been down to zero several times during the day. Very gusty westerly winds are driving lake effect snow squalls off the lake and whipping up the 8" to 12" already dumped on the harbor. Snow hangs on everything...very beautiful. It's also very cold. Temperature near zero and a recorded wind chill of -40 on my weather station. (I know, that's not much by MN and Dakota standards, but it's a rare event up here by the still open lake.) The wind has pushed all the harbor ice into the east bay. The county plow had been by twice by 10 am (seems as if we always get more plowing on overtime weekends), but new snow and drifting snow is refilling roadways quickly. It took me over twenty minutes to drive the two miles to the Cat Harbor snow stick factory due to poor visability, especially down near the lake. I didn't meet a soul enroute and except for a thickly bundled up good guy Joe Monroe out snow blowing neighbors drives and mailboxes, the Harbor seems vacated. It fact it almost is as several couples left for warmer climes on Friday. The Inn is open, but only a few snowmobiles were parked out front as I drove by. Abby and I just returned from a brief, but exhilarating, walk to the lighthouse and are now attempting to thaw out fingers and paws by the fire. I wanted to truly feel and hear the fury of the storm. The wind is creating a terrible ruckus as it blasts through the trees and pushes breaking waves across the lake and onto the rocks. The snow, almost horizontal in its descent, is blinding and biting, making everything except a downwind view almost impossible. Abby prances joyfully through the deepening snow piles, but I stumble about as half closed eyes fail to detect building snow ridges and the strong wind adds to my unsteadiness. I pull open a not tightly closed mail box door and find my mail buried in the completely snow filled box. I can't imagine how Brad made his route today. Access to the woodpile is getting difficult. I'll dig it out at storm's end, but for now my "storm reserve" piled on my front stoop will have to do. This is great!!

Return To Harbor Web

Return ToThe Week's Weather Journal