No need to be scared by cold Halloween forecast

Posted at 8:45 AM, Oct 30, 2014
and last updated 2014-12-09 09:11:26-05

GRAND RAPIDS — As a meteorologist who has lived in West Michigan more than 30 years, it always amazes me how quickly we can lose perspective about the weather.

Here’s a news flash: Fall storms that bring cold air, windy weather, and snow showers are not unusual in late October in Michigan.  Even in the rare situation where some of that snow is heavy enough to stick to the grass, it’s typically gone in minutes or hours.

So forgive me if I roll my eyes a bit when I hear people talking about their kids trick-or-treating in snowpants Friday.

The forecast for Halloween is, admittedly, a challenging one.  The main issue is predicting how much overlapping time there will be as cold air moves in during the day, while the heart of the moisture moves out along with a low-pressure system.

As of Thursday morning, here is how we anticipate things will play out:

  • Temperatures will start Friday morning in the low 40s, then drop into the 30s by midday.
  • Rain showers begin overnight, with most of the wet weather moving out by mid-afternoon.
  • The few hours of overlap from mid-morning to early afternoon will provide time to see some sleet or wet snow mixing in with the rain.  With warm ground and daylight, any accumulations will be temporary and limited to grassy areas.
  • Some flurries will still be possible in spots Friday night, but most areas will dry out as lake-effect bands set up from north to south over Lake Michigan.
  • Temperatures in the 30s will combine with north winds 15 to 30 mph to drop wind chill values into the 20s.
  • In the worst-case scenario, winds will be strong enough to bring down some branches and cause scattered power outages.

And here’s how West Michiganders will react:

  • We’ll get excited/angry/annoyed at the sight of snow.
  • We’ll post a picture and snarky comment on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram.
  • We’ll bundle up and take kids trick-or-treating Friday evening, or head to the local high school football game, complaining about the wind and cold.
  • We’ll grab a hot drink, head back inside, eat candy, watch a scary movie, and get over it.

As in most situations, much of the panic has been driven by the media (which, regretfully, I realize I am part of).  A couple of outlets have hyped a “scary” Halloween forecast (OK, I get it, it’s a play on the holiday).  But Thursday morning, I saw someone post about the “dangerous” wind chills in the 20s.  Cold?  Sure — colder than we typically see in October.   But dangerous?  We see conditions colder than that for months out of the year!

A colleague of mine, Scott Sabol at FOX 8 in Cleveland (a sister station to FOX 17), said it best:

When weather is truly dangerous, I will absolutely tell you about it.  But this isn’t one of those times, so let’s all keep some perspective. The forecast may still change a bit, but you can always find updates on the Weather page and on FOX 17 News.