DETROIT – Most Michiganders hope that April showers will end the season’s snow until next winter - but in Michigan, it’s never a sure thing.
Take April 1886 for example: On Tuesday, April 6, 1886, Detroit was hit with the largest snowstorm on record, dumping more than 24 inches of snow.
Just before the 1886 storm, farmers were getting ready for spring.
The biggest snowstorm ever to strike Michigan occurred on Tuesday, April 6, 1886. The days preceding the storm, however, were more in keeping with spring weather rather than winter. Spring activities were already underway with many believing that winter was a distant memory. Only four days prior to the storm, The Rochester Era reported:
"We hail this charming month, for it brings with it freshness, the sweet breath of the springtime and the gentle rains that herald the advent of the early flowers, and the starting grass upon our lawns and meadows…Farm stock, glad to leave the confines of the barn and yard, are straying hither and yon, through field and woodland seeking the tender blades of grass and early vegetation."
On April 3, strong and persistent winds blew throughout the state and lasted until the storm struck. On April 5, the temperature was a chilly 38 degrees. Light snow began to fall shortly after midnight on April 6 and it got progressively heavier during the pre-dawn hours. At 7:00 a.m. the snowfall measured 4.6." At 3:00 p.m., snowfall was at 17.1." When the snow finally stopped falling around 9:00 p.m., there was about 24.5" of snow on the ground. In order to be classified as a blizzard, the snowstorm had to be accompanied by winds of at least 32 mph, low temperatures (temperatures held at 20 to 30 degrees throughout the storm), and visibility of less than 500 feet.