The Green and White of a Late April Snow in Michigan

Joseph Serwach

We aren’t supposed to see snowstorms a month into spring — but it’s more common than we realize mixture of green spring grass, sunny skies, and a surprise April 20 snow. Photo by Joseph Serwach.

A month into spring and Michigan got hit with a snowstorm on April 20. Surprise? Surprises are far more normal than we realize.

Several less fortunate early morning commuters hit patches of ice, leading to auto accidents and big pile-ups along Interstate-696 north of Detroit, not what drivers were expecting in late April. In Roseville, the unexpected snow led to a 20-car pileup.

“The roads are wet, and overnight the temperatures cooled down into the upper 20s and lower 30s, so that was enough to bring some ice onto the roadways,” David Gurney, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, told The Detroit News.

Author L.M. Montgomery once wrote, “Snow in April is abominable,” comparing the surprise to “a slap in the face when you expect a kiss.” kept their convertible top down despite the 28-degree morning with snow on the ground. Photo by Joseph Serwach.
In a sign of defiance, some stubborn Brighton friends kept the top down on their Miata convertible while driving through this snowy, sunny mix.

After a few weeks of warm sun and putting away coats, snow brushes, and jackets for sunny spring walks, Michiganders weren’t expecting snow, ice, and 28 degrees this morning.

Southern Michigan gets late April snow about a third of the time Snow sticking to trees and bushes. Photo by Joseph Serwach.

National Weather Service data says Detroit has a dose of snow between mid-April and early May (on average) nearly one out of every three years on average.

  • Saginaw, Michigan, has about the same average as the metropolitan Detroit area.
  • In Flint, Michigan, that percentage of late April snow is even higher, 41 percent.
  • In northern Michigan, especially the Upper Peninsula, snow seems more likely at nearly all times of the year.

And yet, it’s very odd seeing snow, green grass, and sunshine in Michigan.

The three never seem to go together except at Michigan State University in East Lansing, where everything is “Go Green, Go White,” pretty much all the time.

“How ridiculous and how strange to be surprised at anything which happens in life,” ― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations. Roads cleared but early morning commuters had a less pleasant drive—photo by Joseph Serwach.

In April 2003, Michigan had a warm early spring of sun in the 80s, followed by eight inches of snow the following week.

T.S. Eliot called April “the cruelest month, breeding lilacs out of the dead land, mixing memory and desire, stirring dull roots with spring rain.”

The only thing guaranteed to change in Michigan is the weather (which is always impossible to predict accurately). As Mae West said, “Those who are easily shocked should be shocked more often.”

Still, we never seem to expect these Michigan weather curveballs: our granddaughter celebrated her ninth birthday as the snow fell upon us, and she couldn’t remember snow falling on her birthday. But her mother assured us there’d been snow on the ground on this date, “but this is the first time I remember it actually snowing.”

Already, the snow is melting (and otherwise blowing around like fake snow in a shakable snow globe). The weather people predicted another warm-up later this week, so our spring snow just seemed like a tease.

“April splinters like an ice palace.” ― Ruth Stone, In the Next Galaxy. normally sees snow and gray skies or sunny skies. Combing the two is rare—photo by Joseph Serwach.

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