‘Winter’ Storm produces messy midweek

Posted at 9:31 AM, Mar 22, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-22 09:31:24-04

WEST MICHIGAN-  We’re a couple of days into spring and although it will feel more like it today, that won’t necessarily be the case Wednesday and Thursday.


A Winter Storm Watch remains in place for much of our area.  It has been modified a bit, however, as counties along I-96 are now the southernmost counties in the watch area.  This is because the storm looks to trek further northward than expected yesterday.  A sidenote, “Winter Storm” does not change for the seasons.  It’s just always called “Winter Storm,” despite when it arrives.

RPM 1 (4)

Speaking of arrival times, let’s fast forward to tomorrow at 5 PM.  You’ll notice the familiar green color as rain.  The pink color denotes a mix of rain, snow, and even freezing rain.  Most areas look to get home tomorrow evening OK, but colder air settles in around this time, and that’s where things get a little bit more difficult.

Temps 1 (2)

As it stands right now, here’s a projection of temperatures tomorrow evening.  You’ll see the vast contrast between air masses.  The defining line between any wintry precipitation at this point remains interstate 96 and northward.  At that point, it’s just determining how much and what type of precip falls.

RPM 2 (4)

By midnight, colder air settles further southward.  This is when Grand Rapids and surrounding areas look to have the best chance to receive freezing rain, sleet, and even a few flakes of snow.  Depending on the surface temperature, initial sleet and freezing rain may not cause issues on the roadways.

FRZ Explainer (1) SLEET Explainer (1)

Speaking of the difference between the two, sleet is the frozen ice pellets that you often hear hitting the windows or the roof when the temp gets near freezing.  The difference between freezing rain and sleet is an added layer of warmer air above the surface.

RPM 3 (2)

Back to the scenario, freezing rain and sleet continues in the morning, where as most of the snow remains out of our area.  This will go back and forth throughout Thursday as these air masses split West Michigan in half.

Hand Drawn DMA Snow Totals (3)

So what can you expect in your area come late Wednesday into Thursday?  Many areas south of Interstate 96 will only see rain.  There may be a few flakes mixed in later Thursday, but warmer air will remain in these areas, so only rain is expected.  Into the Grand Rapids area, expect minimal impacts at this time.  I believe there will be a period of freezing rain, sleet, and even a few flakes of snow.  If we get the temperature cold enough, this may cause issues on the roadways or isolated power outages.  As it looks right now, the temperature will remain a couple degrees above freezing, which may limit any issues caused.  This could change in the next 24 hours though!  Further north you go, the more widespread impacts.  It seems as areas near Big Rapids, Newaygo, Fremont, and Mount Pleasant will remain at or below freezing for much of this time.  Power outages and icing could be an issue.  A slight track in this storm could make a big difference in the outcome. We’ll keep you up to day on air and online.