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Powerful Storm Edges Closer To Michigan

Posted at 10:27 PM, Dec 18, 2012
and last updated 2012-12-19 01:10:08-05

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – As we’ve been tracking for several days now, a powerful low pressure system is expected to move into the Great Lakes Thursday and Friday this week. The system is coming from Colorado and pulling in a fair amount of Gulf Moisture along with it. That means plenty of rain and snow, and a deepening (strengthening) low pressure system with a very strong wind field. This system dropped between one to two feet of snow across the Sierra Nevadas and the Cascade mountain ranges in the west. More than a dozen states have some type of winter storm watch, warning, or advisory out for this system. Click here to see national watches/warnings. Michigan is no exception…Oceana, Muskegon, Newaygo, and Mecosta Counties are under a WINTER STORM WATCH that goes into effect Thursday at 1:00 PM and runs through Friday at 1:00 PM. Click here for the information on our local watches.

While we were trying to pin down the track of this low pressure system on Monday, Tuesday we were already able to offer rainfall totals, snowfall totals, and sustained wind speeds through the entire event. While these amounts will be refined over the next day or so, I would expect most of them to be fairly accurate and on track for West Michigan. The attached photo is our FutureTrack HD forecast model and a snapshot at 3:00 PM Friday. This is showing sustained wind speeds (two-minute average) in miles per hour of 30 to 40 mph. That means wind gusts of 50 to 60 mph, especially at the lakeshore will be possible from this system. Remember Superstorm Sandy a couple of months back? These winds will rival that system with 18 to 22 foot waves on Lake Michigan, and perhaps higher along the southern base of the lake. Storm warnings have already been issued for that time frame…which are the highest you can get on an inland lake. Click here for more information on Lake Michigan waves.

The other parts of this story deal with accumulated precipitation. Rain will develop Wednesday night and go through most of Thursday. A majority of our area will pick up about .75″ to 1.0″ of liquid rain, while snowfall amounts across Ottawa, Kent, and Ionia Counties southward will be on the order of one to three inches, perhaps two to four. Further north where less rain mixes in, I anticipate a swath of three to six inches of snow, with six inches or more likely in areas that never see a changeover or rain mix. Specifically, northern Muskegon County, Oceana, northern Newaygo, Mecosta, and points further north along the U.S. 1o corridor.

The worst driving conditions will occur Thursday night into mid-day Friday as winds ramp up and accumulating snow will be blowing and drifting. Near blizzard conditions are possible in some of these locations…many across our northern counties.  Take a look at our computer forecast models and where this low will be on Wednesday evening. Note the “L” over northern Oklahoma. Here’s the location of the storm center Thursday morning over west central Illinois. All of the purple is accumulated precipitation, while the blue is heavier accumulated precipitation. The location of the “L” Thursday evening  is directly overhead. These are the same forecast models meteorologists look at each day as guidance to help us formulate a forecast.

Get the complete West Michigan forecast updated several times daily at www.fox17online.com/weather. Don’t forget to send your weather reports and photos of this event to weather@fox17online.com. Also…take a boatload of photos of the giant waves at the lake, but make sure to stay off the piers for safety reasons!