Seriously, how bad are Cleveland winters?

by | Nov 14, 2013 | Weather

Typical of much of the central United States, Northeast Ohio has four distinct seasons: Rainy springs; warm (and mildly humid) summers, beautiful crisp autumns and cold snowy winters. Cleveland & Akron’s only extreme weather is winter, and the worst of the snow & cold is usually concentrated in the months of January, February & March.
Here’s the good news….we have no wildfires, no hurricanes, no mudslides and no earthquakes (except tiny baby ones). And while we get thunderstorms and an occasional tornado scare in the summer months, it is rare for residents to have to run for the basement to wait out a funnel cloud in our region. And, because Cleveland sits on the shore of Lake Erie, we never worry about water shortages that plague the landlocked and southern portions of our country. And, unlike the eastcoast, we rarely have the ice storms that cause downed powerlines putting everyone into darkness for 2-3 days. We get good old fashioned SNOW that you can cross country ski on and make snowballs out of !! Most of the golf course fairways are hijacked by outdoor enthusiasts beginning with the first snowfall in November or December!
Now the realistic, truthful story: our winters are a month longer than even any of us would like. Winter coats and scarves come out in November and stay in the closet until the end of April. But if you’ve never owned a snow blower you are missing out on life. They are a hoot! And if you’ve never seen your dog play in snow drifts you are in for a treat!
We rarely have extreme heat or cold in NE Ohio. The hottest day on record for Cleveland & Akron was a shared 104F (in 1988 and 1918 respectively). The coldest day for either city was in the bitter winter of 1994 when Cleveland hit -20 and Akron hit -25.  We can have extremely mild winters and brutally cold ones. Here is a look back at past winters in NE Ohio
The average annual snowfall in Cleveland in the past 50 years has been 60″ (way more if you live east of the city, often as high as 90″) and the average annual snowfall in Akron is 47″.  Neither city is in the top 20 of US cities with the most snow (Syracuse wins with 115”, and ALSO snowier than Cleveland/Akron are: Denver, Grand Rapids, Green Bay, Buffalo, Flagstaff, South Bend, Portland (ME obviously) and Salt Lake City).
So what is Lake Effect snow? It’s not as scary as it sounds…it’s a natural phenomenon that happens when storm clouds pick up moisture from a large open body of water (like Lake Erie) and then hit elevation (like the foothills of the Allegheny Mountains which are the hills you climb as you leave the city of Cleveland and head east into the suburbs). An example of the variation of snowfall during a lake effect squall is: Cleveland’s western suburbs get 2″, downtown Cleveland gets 3″, the near eastern suburbs get 5″, and the true snow belt (in dark red to the left) gets 8″. The city of Chardon, in Geauga County is known as the epicenter of the snowbelt. Those who love to snowshoe and cross country ski and drive a big old honkin’ SUV will love it out there in the country. If not, skip the suburb when you begin exploring the area for places to live!

amo snowblower

Amo Judd loving his snow blower

But, as with most northern cities, all the suburbs are very well equipped with snow removal equipment and road salt to clear the highways and major side streets quickly.  Secondary streets are usually the next priority, and your own sidewalk and driveway are your job. That’s where the fun trip to the hardware store comes into to play – picking out your very own snowblower is fun and makes you very popular with the little old lady across the street who can’t shovel her walk anymore (yes, midwesterners help their neighborhoods with things like this all the time!). C’mon you know you always wanted a snowblower!
And, except for the days with the heaviest snow fall, most of the roads are cleared before any of us head into rush hour traffic. Cleveland has the added advantage of sitting on one of the largest salt mines in the US, remnants of an ancient inland ocean that left hundreds of tons of salt under Lake Erie…how handy is that?
So we all love those upbeat people who see the good in any situation, right? Here are two recent examples of transplants from warm sunny states who who embraced our 4 seasons: a woman from Southern California who told us how much fun she had raking autumn leaves in their yard in Cleveland. They had never seen deciduous trees before and loved the smells and colors and her kids and dog playing in the yard with them…..ok, they probably then immediately hired a landscaper to do the rest of the fall cleanup as the first time you rake leaves in the fall is very fun, but the 2nd, 3rd and 10th time in the same year, not so much! Or the Miami transplant who was so excited that she would be able to buy fall & winter clothes that were rarely seen in Florida. She already had her first Uggs in mind!
And, talking about northern towns that embrace winter, did you know that rollerbladding was invented in Minneapolis by two brothers who loved playing hockey so much that they invented a way to play it in months that were NOT snowing…now that is what we call embracing winter!  Here are ways that Clevelanders and Akronites embrace winter with the same gusto. We have bunny hill-sized ski slopes close by at Boston Mills & Brandywine in Peninsula (inside the Cuyahoga Valley National Park just  south of Cleveland) or at Alpine Valley in Munson Township east of Cleveland. Most of the local schools’ ski clubs can easily teach newcomers how to ski without the intimidation of black diamond skiers swooshing by at 50 mph.  And instead of investing thousands of dollars and a full week of vacation to spend time on bigger mountains out west, just 2-3 hours to the east in either Pennsylvania or New York including the very popular Holiday Valley  and HoliMont (both in Ellicottville, NY), Seven Springs, and Peek N Peak resorts. The Plain Dealer does a great job of outlining all the ski areas within a day’s drive on NE Ohio with their annual Ski Report.
And the Cleveland MetroParks boasts one of the few toboggan chutes in the region. It’s 112 steps to the top (you are NOT carrying your toboggan, it gets hauled up separately) and then you fly down a 70′ icy chute going as fast as 50 mph. Something that every newcomer should do with their kids in the winter! The chutes are in the Mill Stream Run Reservation in the southwest suburb of Strongsville, are ridiculously affordable and the snack bar sells coffee, hot chocolate, snacks and winter gloves (required for this ride).
So, to summarize: winter is just one of our four seasons and helps us appreciate the warm months even more. No, you do not have to own an SUV or a 4-wheel drive vehicle to live here (although we recommend at least one of the family cars be a front wheel drive); Most people never have to miss a day at work due to snowy conditions (although you might get your kids excited about a magical thing called SNOW DAYS that close their schools down randomly and get them out of tests — mostly due to chilly temperatures or icy sidewalks that would make waiting at the bus stop tough for little kids) and seriously, when the December holidays approach, doesn’t it just feel magical to see snowflakes drifting down from a midnight blue sky and coating the pine trees in your yard? That’s why they wrote the song ‘I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas!’ Your warm weather state relatives will all want to spend Christmas with you!
For more information on how Executive Arrangements can help your company attract the best possible talent to NE Ohio by matching the recruit (and family) to the lifestyle options in Cleveland, Akron or Canton, please call our office at 216.231.9311.