100 Years Ago: The May That Lansing Saw Nearly a Foot of Snow
Snow in May is unusual in Mid-Michigan, but not unheard of.
The weather record books are littered with anecdotal evidence of snowfall in Michigan during the month of May, but nothing compares to the surprise snowstorm that struck Lansing and a large swath of Lower Michigan in May of 1923.
The Second Week of May 1923 in Lansing, Michigan
The second week of May 1923 started off with temperatures you'd expect in mid-spring in Michigan. Daytime highs had reached the 70s in Lansing on Sunday and Monday (May 6 and 7), but a change was in the air Tuesday, May 8, 1923, as a strong Arctic front approached the region, firing off a few thunderstorms and sending temperatures plummeting as much cooler air rushed in. The rain Tuesday evening mixed with some snow showers, but didn't amount to much. It was just a harbinger of things to come.
Lansing's Surprise Snowfall of May 9, 1923
According to National Weather Service records, the colder temperatures were the first ingredient that set the stage for the surprise snowstorm that followed.
"On the morning of the 9th, a low pressure area developed along the front in northwest Ohio and moved over Lake Erie during the afternoon. The developing low pulled warmer, moist air north from the Ohio Valley and mixed with the unseasonably cold airmass over Southeast Lower Michigan." - National Weather Service
The wraparound moisture caused a heavy, wet snow to fall across a swath of Lower Michigan from Muskegon and Grand Rapids east to Lansing, Flint and Detroit during the afternoon and early evening hours of Wednesday, May 9, 1923.
By all accounts, the snowfall of May 1923 was short-lived as temperatures rebounded to the more spring-like 50s and 60s for the remainder of the week.
A Little Perspective
Weather records for most of Michigan's largest cities date back to the late 1800s. With the exception of May of 1923, there are no other records of anywhere in Lower Michigan getting more than 2 inches of snow in any other May.