The Winter of 1955-56

August 31st, 2010 at 11:50 am by under Bill's Blog, Weather

<–Methodist Church in Nashville, Michigan 1956.  The last time we had a summer as warm as this one was 1955.  People asked if I’d look up to see what the weather was like in the fall and winter of 1955-56:   September (+0.9°) and October (+3.7°) were both warmer than average.  It turned cold in November (-2.7°) and the lake-effect snow machine sprang to life.  We had 18.5″ of snow in Grand Rapids and lakeshore areas had more than that.  December was cool (-1.6°) but Grand Rapids only had 9.4″ of snow that month.  January was almost exactly normal for temperatures, but we had only 5.3″ of snow.   February was also almost exactly normal for temperature but with 22.9″ of snow.  March was nearly 4 degrees colder than average with another 17.5″ of snow.  It finally reached 50° on April 1, then 60° on April 2, then on April 3rd, 1956 the temperature climbed into the upper 70s just before the dinner hour…and just before a massive F5 tornado descended from an ominous sky and plowed through Ottawa and Kent Counties leaving 17 dead and 340 injured.  The strongest wind anywhere on Earth in 1956 occurred on April 3, 1956 on Van Buren Street in Hudsonville, Michigan.  That tornado, the only F5 tornado to occur anywhere in the world in 1956,  came the April following that warm summer of ’55.   It’s also interesting to note that we are going to be in a moderate La Ninasimilar to the winter/spring of 1955-56 and we had a cold PDO in 1955-56.

63 Responses to “The Winter of 1955-56”

  1. Herb (SE Muskegon) says:

    Uh oh, well Bill let’s hope if it happens again it’s in a unpopulated area. My fear that if another one goes though the same area, that area has really developed since then.

  2. Bob P. :o) (St.Johns) says:

    Very Interesting data for sure….Thanks for the update Bill….St.Johns winter was blah, Dec 2.4″ /Jan was 6.6 and feb was 19.1, I dont have Nov totals, probably not much Im sure…
    Was a dismal winter in 1988/89 too here in St.Johns, total was 28.1 boooo!
    Hmmmmm, whats does this say???

    1. slimjim (NW GR) says:

      GR ended up with 79.3″ in the winter of 55/56 so it was still above average here.

  3. Lisa (Caledonia) says:


  4. DF (SE Mich) says:

    I can’t wait, I hate these 90′s! =)

  5. GunLakeDeb says:

    Notes to self:

    Sign snowplow contract; don’t get the pay-per-plow plan ;-) Dust off snowshoes.

    Keep the “Storm Closet” stocked. (We lakefront people don’t have basements, so I have a small storage room in my garage made from 8″ thick steel-reinforced concrete)

    Enjoy the “interesting” weather….LOL!

    1. dan in gun lake says:

      who does plowing in the Gun lake area? I need someone with insurance that knows what they are doing. Their name can’t start with D

      1. GunLakeDeb says:

        I use Kraai Well Drilling’s service – they do a great job!

  6. Bill S. says:

    When can we expect your full 2010-2011 winter forecast. Bastardi’s is out, the farmers almanac is out, I’m just waiting for yours and John Dee’s before I decide on how much wood to get up for this year….Thought about selling my snowmobiles, but I may have to reconsider.

  7. Laker says:

    Talk about a buzzkill toward the end of that…haha

  8. This is interesting. I will ask my mother if she remembers that year – it was the year she graduated from Ravenna High School!

  9. Matt (Norton Shores) says:

    According to the NWS, Muskegon got 93.1 inches that winter, so a little bit below normal here…but still not bad. A below normal winter here is still MUCH above what I got in my hometown in PA.

    By the way, did you guys see the temps for the end of the week? The NWS has us in the 60s for Friday and Saturday and only around 70 on Sunday. I am soooo looking forward to that refreshing air!

  10. fixxxer says:

    here comes the winter talk… don’t jinx us billy.

    not liking these mid 60′s im seeing coming for the weekend at all. too early for it. i hate to say it but i think this may be the last of the high 80′s – 90 heat we get this year.

    to sum up this summer it was dry, warm but still lacked in the severe weather department. that’s two years in a row.

  11. fixxxer says:

    summer goes by too quick & winter drags on and on…

    1. Irish coffee says:

      change to: “winter goes by too quickly & SUMMER drags on and on….!!

      1. fixxxer says:

        you must be joking right?

      2. Cindy says:

        I’m with you, Irish. This summer has been day after day of oppressive heat. Can’t wait to see my electric bill. Just got A/C a month ago. Who else is looking forward to crisp fall air, the crunch of leaves under your feet, exquisite cloud formations, and juicy Michigan apples? Bring on the Autumn!

        1. Joan Straw-Kitson says:

          I’m with you Cindy….bring on the sweater weather; crisp cool temps, apple cider, the changing of the leaves and chilly nights. Heck, I’d welcome snow right about now! (ask me again in January)

        2. slimjim (NW GR) says:

          Well in the winter its day after day of cold and wind and more cold and more wind.

        3. Jen says:

          Yeah, totally looking forward to fall here too! Not looking forward to taking down the pool this though :(

    2. gosteelers says:

      Guys seriously?? Fixxxer is right here. If we asked you guys in January that’s probably what you would say.

  12. Soccer6713 says:

    I think I read on one of blogs recently that if you didn’t like Michigan winters (cold & snow) you should move someplace where it was warm year round. So I am throwing the ball back to winter lovers and asking you to move someplace where it is cold & snowy year round if you don’t like these 90 degree days we are having.

      1. bobcat says:

        Some of you seem to only know two seasons… Summer and Winter. Many of us that love winter (and snow!) also love Spring, Summer, and Fall. That is the best part of living in Michigan. We get to experience them all! I love skimming the pool in the sweltering heat, and then jumping in. I also love building snowmen and snomobiling… and watching for the next great ‘lake effect’ snowfall! The Fall and Spring between the two seasons is absolutley gorgeous!… sweaters and apples and colorfull leaves in the Fall… The first 60, and then 65 degree day and daffodills poking up thru what’s left of Winter in the Spring…

        Every season has something special and that is why I love living in Michigan. When the temp gets too bad (high or low), we always have something to look forward too…

        I feel sorry for those of you that can’t enjoy them all.

        1. Jen says:

          I agree!!

        2. johnnie(kalamazoo) says:

          well said bobcat! I love all the seasons, by the time we get to the end of one i’m ready for the next. Definitely looking forward to fall its my favorite.

        3. GunLakeDeb says:

          Our Four Seasons are the BEST part of Michigan!! I suppose if someone doesn’t know how to properly PLAY in each season, it wouldn’t be as much fun??

          Hey Fixxxer – you frosty-party-pooper, you – I’ve got an extra set of snowshoes :-) Learn to love the snow – embrace the beauty!!

    1. michael g (SE GR) says:

      That was probably in the context of “if you don’t like the cold and snow here, and feel the need to point that out six times every day of the year” move someplace warm.

      1. fixxxer says:

        betcha that snowman in your av has his burmuda shorts on and is melted. ;)

        btw way if you offer to pay for us to move, ill do it!

    2. vomfu says:

      I would love to move to a place where the climate is more moderate. However, I am one of the fortunate individuals in Michigan with a job/career worth staying here for. So moving is not an option at this point, but for my retirement – maybe somewhere like Seattle? Who knows? I’ve got a few years to ponder on that.

    3. gosteelers says:

      I agree

  13. 820pm and 90 out in my YARDofBRICKS ……..ON 8/31…… INDY!!!

    1. Cindy says:

      It should not be 90 degrees at 8:20 in the evening. It’s just all wrong.

      1. timeno(holland) says:

        i agree. 86 @ 9:00!

  14. skot says:


    1. fixxxer says:

      it’s not over until the 21st. tomorrow is some bull that was made up.

      1. skot says:

        I Dont get it what you mean.?

        1. fixxxer says:

          summer doesnt end offically until sept 21. meteorogical fall begins tomorrow… its just bs anyways.

  15. Grammy4USA-SE GR says:

    Last big afternoon in the Daugher/son-in-law’s pool (2 days in a row) – they are closing the pool on Monday – and that is SAD!! Their 4 teenagers rarely use it, mom/dad/4 yr old use it, and of course, Grammy! BUT, I need to build 12 indoor storm windows so I need a cool week to get my work station set up and get it done!!

  16. Dan says:

    Winter will be awesome this year! My early prediction is that we will receive 80 inchees of snowfall for this season. I bet we also get a couple of ice storms. I bet we will still get a few temps that hit the mid 80s in September. Winter is too short and this Summer has been too long! That said, this Summer has been awesome. No, not many severe weather outbreaks but it sure was Warm. Isn’t that what you wanted Fixxer?

    1. fixxxer says:

      summer ain’t over and i still do not like the 60′s im seeing. why would anybody want 80″ of snow and ice storms. that’s just nuts.

      1. Soccer6713 says:

        I know who likes 80 inches of snow and ice storms… employees & students cause they get to stay home while the rest of us try to keep from killing ourselves on the bad roads since not going to work isn’t an option!

        1. vomfu says:

          Actually, driving through snow and blizzard conditions is much easier than dealing with the mindless tourists (Yes, I know they throw their money around), and construction zones. Bring on the snow!

        2. bobcat says:

          The students and teachers get to stay home. The other school employees do not. Many school employees need to go to work regardless of the weather just like you… think of maintainance, janitors, shovelers, plowers, and many others that need to get/keep the school ready for your kid the next day. They don’t stay home because of heavy snow. They go to work trying to “keep from killing” themselves so YOUR kids will have a warm and safe school when they get back.


        3. Matt (Norton Shores) says:

          Not sure what you’re implying here, but this here teacher often travels on bad roads, as schools don’t close very easily around here. Really, teachers don’t have it “as easy” as some people make it out to be. I am very blessed to have the opportunity to teach, but there is tons of preparation and emotional stress involved!

      2. Irish coffee says:

        “why would anyone want 80″ of snow”?… i agree, that’s WAY too little!!– Hoping for at least 100″+!!
        Everyone’s entitled to their own brand of favorite wx, so to each their own i say… to colder location- already done that; unfortunately the Tug Hill Plateau was not an agreeable clime for my wife so marriage trumped wx in that move/return after one winter…but she’s got a short memory-and i’m counting on it becoming even shorter-as i will certainly attempt to persuade her of dream retirement move to Valdez AK area in about 15-20yrs!!

        1. GunLakeDeb says:

          ROFLMBO!!!! Good luck with that! I remember driving to Valdez (summer of ’06) and wondering what the funny-looking posts were along Thompson Pass – they were about 20′ tall with a little “spar” that jutted out…. then a local told me those were to mark the road edge for the SNOWPLOWS.

          Talk about a snowmobiler’s Paradise!!!!

        2. Bill Steffen says:

          They haven’t proven it…but where the Pacific air is forced into the mountains (Logan and St. Elias) between Yakutat and Valdez…it’s got to be the snowiest place in the world.

        3. Irish coffee says:

          I’m with you on this Bill…very limited data in that area for record keeping purposes- & i’d have to believe it would eclipse even Mt Baker WA..

          ps- maybe i should start a donation/collection fund payable to ‘Irish coffee’ for full-time snow-research @/near Thompson Pass,AK…i shouldn’t need much more than a small(2500sq ft)log cabin to house the fam.,+ $$$$ for fresh salmon/whale blubber, a 10 dog arctic sled team,perhaps a ’11 800cc Mountain sled,a 6person hot tub to rehab after long days/nights monitoring the snow-steaks, helicopter(optional)and maybe some computer equipment for storing & 50″ plasma for displaying data,& ahem- football/basketball games..yeah, i’m thinking $1.5 should easily cover it !;’)

  17. skot says:

    Summer aint over til Fixxxer says so

  18. this HUR A Kane moving up the east cost is going to suck the cold air right out of here I see some 90′s again mid week summer is not over yet just with a new name called INDIAN SUMMER now!! And Cindy at the YARADofBRICKS the temp read 90 at 820pm….SORRY!!! INDY!!!!!!!!!

  19. Ohh and a nice line of storms out west anybody forget about storms yet??? INDY90!!!

  20. KevinS says:

    Looking for a possible forecast for Detroit, Thur evening !! Have a concert at 7:00 comerica park. Hopefully that rain to the west moves on out by then.

  21. Elizabeth says:

    All I could think of when Bill digressed into how the winter of 1955-56 eased in the biggest tornado in Michigan history was Indy posting “YEAH!!!! F5 headed to the yard of bricks in eight months!!! Gonna go get some sprites!!!! ONLY EIGHT MONTHS!!! INDY!!!!!”

    Heehee- love the enthusiasm Indy!

    1. lol …..we need enthusiasm on here!!!

  22. Tyler says:

    Iron Mountain had 55 days above 80 degrees this summer since early May! They also had 20 days of 85 degrees or above and 5 that hit 90. Last year they only had 26 days above 80, 9 above 85 and 2 that hit 90 degrees.

  23. Pauline (Coopersville) says:

    With the smaller amounts of snowfall in Dec and Jan of 1956, I was wondering if there had been any rain/freezing rain events at all those months. Does anyone know?

    1. Bill Steffen says:

      December and especially January were very dry months…only 0.29″ precipitation in January. A lot of cool, dull days that month.

  24. Jen says:

    Thank you Bill! I am looking forward to your winter prediction and this bit of info was great, I’m rather looking forward to some uncertainty this winter.

  25. Tyler says:

    We had a hot summer in 1995 and the winter was very cold in 95-96 and long. I wonder what 88-89 was like?

  26. Lori says:

    Hopefully history will repeat itself! I’d love a winter with a minimal amount of snow like that!

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