Wind, Not Snow, Will Be Main Impact of Winter Storm

Posted at 10:30 AM, Dec 20, 2012
and last updated 2012-12-20 12:26:03-05

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich — Snow-lovers around most of West Michigan will have to keep wishing for a big snowfall, as forecast trends indicate less snow is expected around most of the region.  However, wind and cold will make for unpleasant and potentially hazardous conditions for the area through Friday.

Thursday morning started with a mix of rain and snow, with some areas north of Grand Rapids receiving a quick one to three inches of accumulation.  Snow will continue a transition to rain in those locations through midday and into Thursday afternoon.  Wind will gust around 30 miles per hour during the day as well.  The combination of wet snow and windy conditions has resulted in a number of power outages, especially north of Grand Rapids.  That, in turn, forced some schools to close or let out early for the day.  Click here for the updated closings page.

As the main low-pressure center tracks across the state, there will be a lull in the heaviest rain, and winds will diminish temporarily this evening.

But late tonight (after midnight in most places), winds will shift to the northwest and intensify, pulling in colder air and changing rain to snow.  A period of moderate to heavy snow and blowing snow is likely through early Friday morning before the main area of moisture moves out of West Michigan.  This will leave one to three inches of snow across most of the area.  Behind it, lake-effect snow will drop another inch or two west of U.S. 131 during the day Friday, but that snow will gradually end Friday night.

So, how will this impact drivers and others around the area?  It depends in large part how much, and how quickly, temperatures drop as the cold air moves in.  It now looks more like temperatures will hold near the freezing mark even into the daytime on Friday, which will make it unlikely that a lot of ice will form on the roads.  However, visibilities will be very low in bands of snow.

Without big snow amounts expected, and without extremely cold temperatures, it should be fairly easy for road crews to clean up as the snow winds down Friday.  But driver reactions will be difficult to predict — those who become overconfident without much snow on the pavement may easily run into problems.

Another factor that will be difficult to predict will be school closings.  Normally, this type of event would not cause widespread school closings; however, administrators may feel more inclined to cancel school on the last day before the extended winter break.  Human behavior is not something that even the best weather computers can predict.

We’ll continue streaming live weather conditions as much as possible here at, and have updates on FOX 17 News or during programming if it becomes necessary.  You can check out interactive radar and the full forecast on the Weather page.