Michigan Information & Research Service Inc.
Michigan Information & Research Service Inc.

No Snow Means Ski Slopes, Other Winter Sport Business Can Apply For Disaster Relief

03/05/24 05:19 PM By Team MIRS

(Source: MIRS.news, Published 03/04/2024) Gov. Gretchen Whitmer urged small businesses that rely on snow to apply for Economic Injury Disaster Loans from the Small Business Administration because of drought in 42 counties.


The Department of Agriculture declared a drought in most of the northern lower and upper peninsula counties, after the warmest winter on record caused cancelations of sled dog races and had the lowest snowfall and ice rates. "Michiganders are used to tough winters, but this year's record-setting warm winter has been tough in a different way, causing economic hardships for small businesses and regional economies that rely on snow," Whitmer said. 


Businesses in Alcona, Alger, Alpena, Antrim, Arenac, Bay, Benzie, Charlevoix, Cheboygan, Clare, Crawford, Delta, Dickinson, Emmet, Gladwin, Gogebic, Grand Traverse, Gratiot, Iosco, Iron, Isabella, Kalkaska, Leelanau, Luce, Mackinac, Manistee, Marquette, Mecosta, Menominee, Midland, Missaukee, Montmorency, Ogemaw, Ontonagon, Osceola, Oscoda, Otsego, Presque Isle, Schoolcraft, Roscommon, Saginaw and Wexford counties are eligible to apply by submitting application at the Small Business Association website or by calling the Michigan Small Business Development Center at 1-833-522-0025. 


“A drought is a drought – whether we're talking about rain or snow. Businesses impacted by low snow in these 42 counties can apply for support right now, and I'll continue to push our federal government for more solutions," Whitmer said.


The Michigan Snowsports Industries Association President and Executive Director Mickey MacWilliams said the disaster relief funding would be able to help the ski areas across the state that haven't had a good season because of the weather.


"This has been a challenging winter all across the state, but we will persevere, and even with the mild temperatures, many Michigan ski areas are still open to welcome guests," MacWilliams said.


WWMT News Channel 3 Meteorologist Keith Thompson said he doesn't usually talk about drought in the winter because usually the droughts are associated with crop growth and farmers in the summer months.


"I don't even really remember talking about the Drought Monitor in late February and early March," Thompson said. "It's just a sign of how little snow that we've had and that snowpack which is non-existent and the ice on the lake which is pretty much non-existent."


Thompson said there is a strong El Niño weather cycle happening, but even for that weather pattern the record warmth, low snowfall and lack of ice is extraordinary.


He pointed to temperatures in Detroit that reached 73 degrees in February and Grand Rapids blowing away all hottest day records for March 4. He said Kalamazoo saw six of the last 14 days with high temperatures at least 20 degrees warmer than average.


For the low snowfall, he pointed to Ironwood, which is in the Upper Peninsula and has an average snowfall of 151 inches. This year they have 35 inches total and haven't had one foot of snow on the ground at any given point. Last winter they had a total of 178 inches of snow.


"If you knew this with certainty in Ironwood, you'd close up your ski shop and go to Florida, but nobody knew it was going to be at this level," he said.


Marquette hasn't had more than two feet of snow on the ground at any given point since July 1, 2023. The U.P. city known for snowfall had 87 inches total. The average is 153 inches.


He said the Climate Prediction Center, a branch of the National Weather Service, was projecting that El Niño would end between April and June, which could see a return of normal weather patterns. However, they are predicting a La Niña to develop by the end of the summer.


According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, the El Niño and La Niña climate patterns are oceanic phenomena that start in the Pacific Ocean and impact weather around the world, with El Niño creating more warm weather across the Great Lakes and wetter weather in places like California.


The La Niña climate cycle causes wetter and colder areas in Michigan.


However, Thompson said this cycle of El Niño is something that hasn't been seen since weather data was started to be collected in the 1880s. He said the last major El Niño was in 1982.


He said with the cycle as abnormal as it is, that there could be no last blast of winter, but that didn't mean the summer-like weather would continue.


"I think we're going to get into a cooler pattern, but you know cooler is redefined. Cooler is relative to what we're talking about," Thompson said.


He said mid-50s is still 10 degrees above average temperature for March.


"I feel like it reinforces just how extraordinary this is. I mean, this is extraordinary," he said.