Painesdale weather watcher measures snowfall for nearly two decades

PAINESDALE, Mich. (WLUC) - At eight o’clock each morning, Bruce Taavola’s daily task is bundling up, heading outside, and measuring the snowfall at his home in Painesdale.

For 19 years, he’s recorded every inch.

It started out as a personal challenge of sorts.

"I kept looking at the [Daily Mining] Gazette and they were saying 'so much snow,' and I knew in this area here we were getting more snow than Houghton/Hancock area,” he said. “So I started a back porch measurement.”

A simple measurement with a yard stick and a plastic white board, both on his porch and in his yard.

Pretty soon, word got out.

"I started getting phone calls saying, 'Well how about measuring for the [National] Weather Service?'”

So since 2013, he’s kept track, providing the numbers for the National Weather Service, Houghton County Road Commission, Emergency Coordinators, and, yes, the Daily Mining Gazette.

This retired MDOT engineer has seen a lot of snow in his years, but Taavola says this winter stands out.

"In all these 20 years that I’ve been doing this, this is the second season that I’ve had--there's been one other season--I’ve put snowshoes on and had to dig down. I think at that time too I had around 65 inches,” he recalled. “Now we're about--I think I recorded, yeah--about 61 inches this morning."

That’s 61 inches currently on the ground.

It came from seven inches at his house in October, 43 inches in November, 40 in December, 73 in January, and a near-record breaking 81 inches last month on his back porch.

Compare that to last winter, when he recorded 119 inches of snow in December, and a major surprise snowstorm in April brought nearly two feet all at once.

Taavola says part of what’s been so remarkable about this winter is the lack of any thaw the past two months.

"It's been a different winter. Every three or four days or five days we get blasted,” he said. “There's been some winters where an inch or two or three, maybe four in a day. But not this year. And it's been cold."

Taavola thinks March could be a toss-up for how much snowfall he records.

"The 20 year average for March is about 30 inches, and the last four or five years now March has been running mostly under 20 inches,” Taavola said.

The subzero temperatures and near-constant snowfall has taken its toll on some. Taavola admits even he has thought a few times about moving to a warmer climate.

But I guess you could say all this snow is just what makes Upper Michigan someplace special.

"I guess you got to grin and bear it, and have lots of sisu,” Taavola said.

Lots of sisu, indeed!

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