With the cooler days and diminishing daylight the rich colors of fall highlight this month. Snow becomes more frequent as the month concludes.
The typical high temperature cools from 66° on the 1st to 55° by the 31st. Low temperatures have the same trend. The low starts at 47° on the 1st and dips to 38° by the 31st.
October averages 3.26” of precipitation and 0.5” of snowfall, yes snowfall.
The amount of available daylight continues to dwindle, decreasing by 1 hour and 23 minutes in October. The percent of possible sunshine also decreases, down from 59% in September to 44% in October.
See the slideshow on the top of the page for more October statistics and the remainder of the autumn season.
The explosion of fall color in the Michigan trees starts in the Keweenaw and Western U.P., typically in late September and early October. The color then slides east and south across the U.P. and into Northern Lower Michigan for the first part of October. Color is delayed in regions close to Lake Superior and Lake Michigan. The color typically reaches the rest of the Lower Peninsula by mid-October. The slideshow has a map from the Michigan Travel and Tourism webpage.
There are many interesting weather events for October. Some involve severe thunderstorms, but most relate to outbursts of cold air and the first flakes of snow. I’ll highlight a few of the notable events 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.
10/1/1897 – Temperatures reach record highs with both Lansing and Grand Rapids hitting 89 degrees. It is the highest temperature ever recorded in October at Grand Rapids.
10/4/1935 – Snowflakes are observed across Lower Michigan and Grand Rapids has a record cold high temperature of 42 degrees.
10/6/1998 – A squall line moved across Lower Michigan producing tornadoes, downbursts, and some flooding. A tornado struck Ferris State University in Big Rapids, injuring seven students. Another tornado moved from northern Isabella County into southern Clare County, damaging several homes. Total damage with the storms was more than a million dollars.
10/8/1871 – The worst wildfires in the history of the Great Lakes region occur as strong south winds combine with tinder dry conditions. The fires leveled several areas of Michigan and Wisconsin, including the cities of Peshtigo, Holland, Manistee, and Port Huron. At least 1200 people died, about half of them in the Peshtigo, Wisconsin fire. That same night, the Great Chicago Fire erupted, destroying much of the city.
10/10/1906 – An early season snowstorm drops 4 to 8 inches of snow from Ludington to South Haven. Temperatures plunge into the teens the next morning, killing thousands of fruit trees, enough to alter the agricultural economy of southwest Lower Michigan.
10/13/1975 – Record warmth occurred with highs in the 80s. The 87 degrees at Grand Rapids was a record for the date and the highest temperature for so late in the season.
10/16/1943 – A snowstorm drops an inch or two of slushy snow across southwest Lower Michigan. The high temperature at Grand Rapids and Lansing is only 39 degrees.
10/18/1834 – One of the first recorded tornadoes in Michigan strikes Kalamazoo, damaging several homes and businesses.
10/18/1976 – A cold snap drops the temperature at Grand Rapids to 19 degrees for an early season record.
10/21/1974 – It is one of the coldest mornings on record in western Lower Michigan with temperatures falling into the teens. Grand Rapids falls to 18 degrees, the lowest October temperature on record.
10/22/1953 – An extended October warm spell culminates with record highs around 80 degrees. At Grand Rapids, it is the third consecutive day with record high temperatures.
10/25/1962 – Snow accumulates an inch or two across southwest Lower Michigan as an October cold snap continues. Low temperatures fall into the 20s at most locations for four straight days from the 24th to the 27th.
10/26/2008 – Thunderstorms combine with a cool air mass to bring some hail to Lower Michigan. Small hail covered the ground in a few locations.
10/27/1967 – The heaviest October snowstorm on record strikes southwest Lower Michigan with widespread amounts greater than 6 inches. A total of 8.4 inches at Grand Rapids is almost double the amount of the next greatest October snowstorm.
10/29/1925 – October feels more like December as snow and cold prevail for much of the last half of the month. Measurable snow falls for three consecutive days with high temperatures at or near freezing from October 28th to the 30th.
10/31/1950 – Halloween treats Lower Michigan to balmy temperatures. Grand Rapids hits 79 degrees and Lansing 77, both record highs for the date.