Wisconsin December 22, 2017
What Real Life Looks Like Inside The Snowiest Town In Wisconsin
It’s no surprise that here in Wisconsin, we get a lot of snow. North to south, east to west, there isn’t a bit of our state that doesn’t get hit with the fluffy white stuff when winter hits. But one spot seems to accumulate even more than everywhere else. Small Hurley, Wisconsin is the spot in the state that collects the most snow every year. The 1,500 or so brave souls that live in Hurley know a thing or two about snow.
Weather.com declared Hurley as Wisconsin's snowiest city by compiling an average snowfall number using NOAA data from July 1, 1985, through June 30, 2015. Based on that info, Hurley gets a whopping 162.2" of snow each and every winter.
Hurley is on the Montreal River, which forms the border between Wisconsin and Michigan's Upper Peninsula. It's about 18 miles from Lake Superior in what is known as the South Shore snow belt. Lake effect snow is real and constant in Hurley.
It's not just snow - Hurley is also darn cold. In an average year, the temperature drops below 32 °F (0 °C) on 192 days, and below 0 °F (-17.8 °C) on 40 days.
One way locals deal with the snow is with snowmobiles.
Sure, the more than 1,000 miles of snowmobiling trails in and around Iron County can be fun and recreational, but you're just as likely to see snowmobiles lining main street and parked in front of bars or restaurants. They're fun, but they're also necessary here.
In 2014, Marathon County reported that Hurley was home to the greatest monthly total snowfall in state history, 103.5 inches in January 1997 as well as the greatest seasonal total, 301.8 inches in winter of 1996-97 and the deepest snow on ground (excluding drifts), 60.0 inches on Jan. 30, 1996.
Plowing is one of the most costly public works costs for a city like Hurley and can top half a million dollars.
In addition to road plowing, the local forestry service also grades and maintains snowmobile trails.
Not only is snowmobiling a huge draw and tourist trade for the area, but the machines are sometimes the only means of transportation around here.
Though they're a small distance away from Lake Superior, the lake is to blame for much of the snow in this area. Because of its size, Lake Superior rarely freezes all the way over, even in this cold, cold climate.
In relative terms, the lake retains warmth and is warmer than the cold air surrounding it. Cold winds come from Canada or the northwest and as they move across the surface of the lake, which is warmer, relatively speaking, evaporation happens. The moisture from that process form clouds. The wind doesn't stop coming, so the clouds are pushed a bit ashore over - you guessed it - Hurley. The hills in the area induce the moisture to let loose and it comes in the form of lots and lots of snow in Hurley and surrounding areas.
Living in Hurley means always dressing in layers, having a backup generator and lots of batteries and battery operated lights and radios, having a pantry that sustains you for weeks, first aid supplies and more always at the ready.
You never know when you could be snowed in or what you could need in the meantime. You know how to spot frostbite and hypothermia and how to treat them. In the winter, you don't leave the house with exposed skin.
Snows have been coming earlier and earlier - Halloween is usually the accepted start of the season. Some years it's just a dusting and in others, there will be more than five or six feet of snow on the ground before November is out.
If you're not afraid of a bit of snow and love getting outside to enjoy all that winter in Wisconsin has to offer, Hurley is the place for you. Nowhere else provides the kind of winter wonderland of playing in the snow the way they do. When it's below freezing more than 200 days of the year, you'd better learn to embrace it.
Have you been to Hurley or do you live in a snowy Wisconsin town, as well? What’s life like trying to survive what feels like an endless winter? We want to hear about it in the comments.
Looking for some Wisconsin winter fun? Check out our list