Old Mission History: That Time in 1947 When We Had a Snowstorm in May

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Sure, emotions are running high over this April snowstorm we’re in the midst of, but back in 1947, northern Michigan got hit with snow in May.

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While looking through my mom’s scrapbooks, I came across this clipping from the Traverse City Record-Eagle dated May 8, 1947. “May Snowstorm Whitens Traverse,” blares the headline. “It can’t happen here, but it has before and it did again last night – a May snowstorm.”

“Continuing to build up a reputation as one of the most discouraging seasons in local history, Spring brought out wind, an inch of snow, and a temperature in the very low twenties to add to her unpopularity,” reads the story.

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Despite the unseasonable weather, the story reports that fruit growers were unconcerned over their prospects, but it doesn’t say whether blossoms were out by then. If temperatures fell into the 20s, it seems like they would have been concerned.

But that wasn’t the first time northern Michigan had snow in May. On May 14, 1895, 18 inches of snow blanketed the region. The photo in Mom’s clipping is from that date, taken at the corner of Union Street and Seventh Street looking south. Emil Sleder, Frank Sleder and Jack Broadfoot are shown in the photo.

Members of Hose Company No. 3 (firefighters), including Otto Kyselka and Dr. Harry Kyselka, were reportedly out with long poles knocking snow off the maple trees to keep the branches from breaking.

So whatever weather we’re having right now, it could be worse. Let’s hope our May flowers (should they bloom) aren’t blanketed in snow next month.

Here’s the clipping from Mom’s scrapbook (apologies for my grandpa Lester Johnson’s sticker on the photo – not sure what that’s about, but I couldn’t peel it off without ruining the photo).

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May Snowstorm in 1895 & 1947 | Traverse City Record-Eagle; Johnson Family Archives

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