The Weather: On the Road from Michigan to Boston (Page One)


Written by Robert J. Ruhf
Digital camera images by Patrick Newland

Three students, myself included, and one faculty member from Western Michigan University set out for Boston, Massachusetts on November 2, 1999. We were on our way to the national meeting of Gamma Theta Upsilon, a national honor society for undergraduate and graduate students in geography. The meeting was scheduled on November 4 at a conference called The Council for Geographic Education.

The story that you are about to read may seem uninteresting to many people. It will describe trivial details of the weather phenomena that we encountered on our 16-hour trip from Kalamazoo, Michigan to Boston, Massachusetts. You may find this story to be quite boring unless you are interested in trivial weather phenomena. I, however, am fascinated with weather in all its various forms! No aspect of weather is too trivial for me!

(Story begins after this first image. Note: These images are huge! Scroll to the right to see the entire image!)

This photo is the only photo that I have of all four of us together. It was taken in Boston when we stopped in for lunch at Bull Finch Pub, the pub that was the inspiration for the Cheers television show. Actually, Steve Podewell, our faculty advisor (second from the left), was the only person who ate lunch. Paul Engelberts and Patrick Newland (the last two on the right) went in to have beers, and I (far left) just got a water since I wasn't hungry and I don't drink.

Autumn of 1999 started out very warm in Michigan. Oh, sure, there was enough cold weather in October to kill most of the leaves off the trees. However, record warm temperatures invaded the state at the end of October. Numerous locations reported record high temperatures between 65 and 77 degrees Fahrenheit during the period of October 28 through November 1. The warmth quickly came to an end on the night of November 1, however, when a cold front swept through pushing the warm air out of the state. The temperature fell into the 40's by the morning of the 2nd, and weather forecasters were calling for temperatures to fall into the 20's by the morning of the 3rd with 1 to 3 inches of snow possible in Kalamazoo (the city Western Michigan University was located in).

Being that I was a graduate student in geography focusing my studies on weather/climate/meteorology, I regularly studied the overall weather patterns. The night of November 1st was no exception. I knew that we would be on the road all day on the 2nd and I wanted to know what kind of weather we would experience as we drove from Michigan to Boston. I noticed that a low-pressure system was moving northward along the cold front. The position of the cold front and the speed of the low-pressure would bring the storm through the eastern Great Lakes region. The storm would dump heavy rain from Detroit all the way to Boston! It looked as if we would be driving through rain for nearly the entire drive! Additionally, the rate that the cold front was moving indicated to me that we would reach Boston before the cold front did. There would therefore be a point where we would cross the front and enter back into warm air! Temperatures would rise from 40 degrees Fahrenheit to 60 degrees Fahrenheit after we crossed the front! My "forecast" would turn out to be accurate!

It was cloudy when we left Kalamazoo, Michigan at 7:30 A.M., and it started to rain an hour and a half later as we approached Detroit on the eastern side of the state. Except for a few brief periods of five minutes or less, it rained all the way to Boston! We drove through southern Ontario, Niagara Falls, New York, and Massachusetts with moderate to heavy rain coming down during nearly the entire drive!

This image was taken while we were traveling on Interstate 94 near Detroit, Michigan. The rain was just starting to fall.

The story doesn't end here! It continues on (PAGE TWO)