Strong fall storm takes aim at Michigan

Posted at 6:24 PM, Nov 08, 2015

WEST MICHIGAN -- Perhaps it's a coincidence that we should be writing this story the same week as two major historic storms hit the Great Lakes in years past: the Armistice Storm and the storm that sunk the famous Great Lakes freighter the Edmund Fitzgerald. More on those in a bit.

This week another strong low pressure system is expected to develop in the Central Plains and move in to the Great Lakes by mid-week. We'll begin feeling its effects later Wednesday. While this system will not have the power and impact as those two storms in history, it will produce plenty of wind, rain, and eventually colder temperatures.

Here's the timeline: We'll probably see a little sunshine Wednesday morning before the clouds thicken ahead of this next system. It will turn breezy through the day and eventually windy Wednesday night. Rain is likely by Wednesday evening and night as the strengthening low pressure system draws closer to Michigan. Rain continues into Thursday morning, and winds will really ramp up on Thursday. I would expect westerly winds at 25 to 35 mph sustained with gusts between 45 and 50. I would also anticipate the National Weather Service to issue some type of wind advisory.

The warmest temperatures on Thursday will occur at or shortly after midnight (in the low 50s) before the cold front slides through. Temperatures Thursday daytime will fall in to the mid to upper 40s and remain steady all day with a strong westerly wind directly off Lake Michigan keeping us warmer than normal.

Reinforcing cold air will move in behind the system and likely produce some lake effect and lake enhanced rain showers at the immediate lake shore Friday, while snow showers are likely inland away from the lake. Accumulations not likely at this point. Wind will still be a factor on Friday, and waves will be cranking on Lake Michigan through the period. In fact, don't be surprised to see some lake shore flood advisories or warnings issued due to the push of water from west to east on Lake Michigan and higher lake levels, up three feet higher than the last few years!

While it may remain breezy into the weekend, the core of the strongest winds will depart with this system later Friday. The image below is from one of our computer forecast models and is valid for Thursday morning. Notice the outlined map of the United States and the low pressure center over north central Lake Michigan.


All the lines that surround the low are called isobars: they are lines of constant or equal air pressure. Any time those lines are packed that tightly together, it signifies a very strong wind field. The purple, blue, and green on the map denotes accumulated precipitation (from lightest to heaviest).

Take a look at what the system looks like from our forecast model on Wednesday morning (below), 24 hours earlier. You can see the main low pressure area in Kansas just starting to develop.


Here's another snapshot (below) from our forecast model (from the surface) valid Friday morning. Note the low departing in to Canada but the strong wind field and tightly packed isobars that remain in its wake.

GFS fri

Back to the other two storms in history. The Armistice blizzard hit the area on November 11 and 12, 1940. The storm caused 145 deaths; 66 of those were sailors on freighters that sank on Lake Michigan. Click here to read more about this storm.

The second storm is more recent, November 10, 1975, and perhaps more famous, because this week is the 40th anniversary of the sinking of the Great Lakes monster freighter the Edmund Fitzgerald. The ship was loaded with iron ore and sank on Lake Superior around Whitefish Bay with storm-force winds, waves 25 feet high, and freezing rain, sleet, and rain. All 29 crew members lost their lives that evening. Click here for the complete story. You can also click here for the famous song written by Gordon Lightfoot about the Edmund Fitzgerald.

You can always get the complete West Michigan forecast at Have a pleasant, peaceful week!