February typically pulls West Michigan out of the cold and snowy month of January and toward a warmer and drier month. February is the driest month of the year with only 1.79” of liquid precipitation. The average snowfall decreases, as spring approaches, down to 14.8” for the month. Actual and potential sunshine both increase for February. We gain more than an hour of daylight during the month and even the percent of possible sunshine increases. In February we typically see 34% of possible sunshine.
Temperatures climb out of the deepest part of winter as spring approaches. The typical high temperature warms from 31.0° on the 1st to 37.6° on the 28th. Overnight low temperatures take a similar rise going from 18.1° to 22.3°.
There are some notable exceptions to the increasing average temperatures. As I looked at the archived data, the year 1899 stands out as exceptionally cold. The top 6 record coldest low temperatures were all in 1899 with readings between -20° and -24°. As you might expect the “high” temperatures were exceptionally cold as well. The year 1899 observed 5 of the top 10 coldest maximum readings. That month some of the coldest high temperatures ranged from a frigid -6° to +2°.
The trend of warm and wet should continue into February, you can read more here: February outlook issued
See the slideshow on the left for more February weather statistics.
There are some interesting weather events for February and I’ll just highlight a few of them from the National Weather Service Archives. To see the complete list, ‘Subscribe’ to the Grand Rapids Weather examiner for a daily email of historical events.
2/3/2007 – Blizzard conditions prevail across southwest Lower Michigan as an arctic blast of frigid air moving over Lake Michigan produces thundersnow and whiteout conditions. Grand Rapids sets a record for snowfall for any February day with 11.3 inches of snow.
2/4/1838 – An ice jam on the Grand River causes flooding of much of Grand Rapids during early February. Several people had to be rescued from flooded neighborhoods at the fur trading post.
2/6/1895 – Lower Michigan is in the midst of a week long siege of arctic air. High temperatures struggle through the single numbers while morning lows fall well below zero. Lansing falls to 14 below zero on this date after lows of 24 below on the 4th and 20 below on the 5th. Grand Rapids hits 9 below after falling to 16 below on the 5th.
2/6/1938 – The weight of ice and water carried away the west side of the Rouge river dam at Childsdale. The Souffrow bridge near North Belmont was closed to traffic as its footing had been swept away by the river. Several houses along the east bank of the Grand River were flooded.
2/7/1899 – The greatest arctic outbreak in United States history begins a period of extreme cold in Michigan. Grand Rapids hits 15 below zero. During the next week, temperatures will fall to all time record lows across the state and much of the continental U.S.
2/10/1899 – Grand Rapids has its coldest day on record with a high of 6 below zero and a low of 21 below. Muskegon had set their record for all-time coldest high temperature on the 9th with a high of 5 below zero.
2/17/1979 – A long spell of frigid weather during January and February results in Lake Michigan freezing over almost completely for the only time on record.
2/19/1978 – Record lows of 21 below zero at Lansing and 15 below at Grand Rapids contribute to this being the coldest February on record at Grand Rapids and the coldest of the 20th century at Lansing. The temperature never gets above freezing during the entire month at Lansing.
2/20/1951 – Ice jam flooding along the Grand River in Portland damages several buildings and forces the evacuation of some neighborhoods near the river.
2/21/1986 – Lake Michigan water levels are near record highs. Coastal flooding and erosion is a concern during winter storms along the shore.
2/26/2000 – Record warm weather continues during a week long spell of balmy weather across Lower Michigan. The temperature hits 66 degrees at Muskegon for a record high. The low temperature at Grand Rapids is 53 degrees, setting a record for the warmest low temperature for the month of February.