Lake-Effect Flurries Today, More Lake Snow Next Week

Posted at 10:48 AM, Jan 17, 2013
and last updated 2013-01-17 10:48:34-05

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich — Temperatures will continue to cool off a bit Thursday, allowing some very light lake-effect snow to develop around most of West Michigan.  However, the potential for heavy lake-effect snow exists for the first half of next week.

Snow accumulations will amount to little more than a dusting Thursday into Thursday night, with a break expected as we head into Friday.  Some breaks in the clouds are still possible at times during that period.

Another clipper-type system, similar to the one that grazed West Michigan Wednesday, will slide through the Great Lakes Friday afternoon and evening, bringing a few snow showers.  Again, there are not expected to be anything more than minor accumulations.

Saturday, a slightly more potent system may bring an inch or two of snow to parts of the area, but there may also be a bit of a mix with rain as temperatures Saturday afternoon climb near 40°.  It’s that system that will start to pull down the Arctic air that will make it feel much more like January next week.

Temperatures will fall into the teens and 20s Sunday, with single-digit lows and highs in the teens then expected through Wednesday.  How much snow will fall is still very difficult to determine.  On one level, the cold air pouring over a still warm Lake Michigan will create the ideal temperature contrast to generate heavy lake-effect snow.  However, computer models suggest that there may not be abundant moisture available for extremely heavy snow, and that temperatures at cloud level will be too cold to create the really big, fluffy snowflakes that accumulate more quickly.

The end result may be a fine-grained, wind-driven snow that reduces visibility dramatically, but that snowfall totals end up on the lower side for this type of event.  Still, it is almost certain that many locations in West Michigan will see their biggest snowfall of the season so far.  Some form of lake-effect snow will likely be falling continuously from Sunday into at least early Wednesday.  The areas favored for the heaviest snow will be the northwest-wind snowbelts in Ottawa, Allegan, Van Buren, and Kalamazoo counties.

One of the biggest question marks with the forecast is the potential for upper-level disturbances to enhance snowfall periodically.  In many of these situations, a wave of energy can introduce a bit of extra moisture and create a temperature environment that is more conducive for extreme snowfall for a few hours at a time.

Be sure to check out the interactive radar feature, as well as the updated 7 Day Forecast, on the Weather page.