Powerful Storm Starts As Rain For West Michigan

Posted at 10:51 PM, Dec 19, 2012
and last updated 2012-12-19 23:54:28-05

GRAND RAPIDS – The powerful winter storm FOX 17 meteorologists have been discussing and tracking for days is now affecting West Michigan. Rain will continue to across the area through most of Thursday. We are expecting anywhere from .75″ to about one inch of liquid precipitation, so it will be a pretty good soaking. Normally in December, these storms typically produce widespread snow, sometimes heavy. This situation is more unusual for this time of year, but that’s what happens when the low pressure area tracks over Michigan and we get ahead of it with the warmer air and not behind it with the colder air.

This storm is huge in scope affecting more than two dozen states with some type of winter watch, warning, or advisory. West Michigan is no exception. We have WINTER WEATHER ADVISORIES and WINTER STORM WARNINGS posted for the entire area. Here’s the breakout. Muskegon, Oceana, and Newaygo Counties are under a winter storm warning from 7:00 PM Thursday through 7:00 PM Friday. Winter storm warnings are in effect for Ottawa, Allegan, and Van Buren Counties from 1:00 AM Friday through 7:00 PM Friday. Berrien and Cass Counties also have winter storm warnings in effect from 4:00 PM Thursday through 7:00 PM Friday. The remainder of our FOX 17 viewing area is under a winter weather advisory that begins at 1:00 AM Friday and goes through 7:00 PM. Click herefor National Weather Service statements and information on these products. Click hereto see all the national watches, warnings, and advisories.

Most of these warnings and advisories are NOT for heavy snow amounts, but for deteriorating travel conditions Thursday night and Friday morning, as well as significant blowing and drifting. Winds are expected to gust to 50 to 60 mph at the lakeshore, and 40 to 50 mph inland. Make sure to secure anything in the yard (lights, decorations, ornaments, furniture, trash cans) especially before Thursday night when the core of the strongest winds begin to rotate through.

The attached photo represents total snow accumulation across our area by Friday afternoon. Most of us see about one to three inches in gray. Lakeshore locations in light blue will see about two to four inches, with some isolated higher amounts where the lake-effect bands become more persistent. Areas north/west of Grand Rapids in the medium blue color will see about three to six inches, with six inches or more possible along and north of the U.S. 10 corridor. If your travel plans take you to Detroit, only an inch or less is likely in the southeast portion of the state.

While this powerful winter storm will NOT be a true Michigan snow storm for us, it will pack a punch with rain, snow, gusty winds, and being the first real winter system this season. The scope of it is huge with its span of precipitation about 800 miles in length. I’ve already seen lighting in some of the rain across Indiana and Ohio, and there may be severe weather and tornadoes across the south with this system. We’ve also had reports of thundersnow across Iowa…something that rarely happens. It’s thunder and lightning occurring during an intense snow storm and snowfall, usually with very strong vertical motion (or lift).

If you’d like to see how this system will continue to unfold as it lifts into and passes through the Great Lakes, you can click hereto see our forecast model we call FutureTrack HD. Click hereto see a radar loop of the precipitation moving in. Don’t forget waves will build to more than 18 feet on Lake Michigan Thursday night into Friday. In fact, we’ll probably see waves higher than 20 feet from South Haven to Benton Harbor. Take some great photos, but make sure to stay off the piers! You can share those photos with us at FOX 17 so we can use them online and on-air. Email to or just post them to our FOX 17 Facebook page. Get the complete forecast by going to