WEST MICHIGAN — After snow has severely underachieved so far this season, it may be some Yuletide magic that brings a blanket of snow to all of us for Christmas. The official definition of a White Christmas is an inch or more of snow on the ground by Christmas morning. The actual odds of a White Christmas here in West Michigan is 41% to 75%, with the highest chance occurring the further north that you are.
The first opportunity for snow as we approach the holiday will come on Monday, but it likely won't stick around for Christmas. Accumulations will be a dusting to an inch, which is pretty lackluster given the little to no snow on the ground currently. The problem with it sticking around is the temperatures during and after the snow. On Monday, temperatures will be in the middle to upper 30s, leading to the snow melting as it tries to stick. Temperatures Tuesday and Wednesday will get into the 40s, so any snow that does stick will be long gone by Thursday.
If our snow Monday won't stick around and we aren't expecting snow Tuesday and Wednesday, how are we going to have a White Christmas?
The answer is lake-effect snow on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day! A strong cold front will swing through the area Wednesday night, leading to the coldest air we have seen all season. The strength of the cold air mixed with the still mild Lake Michigan waters will push the lake-effect snow machine back into high gear.
Those that typically see the heaviest snow from lake-effect, along & west of US-131 and along & south of I-94, could see several inches of powder piling up throughout Thursday and Friday. If you don't live in these areas, don't worry too much. You could still see an inch to a few inches of snow as the lake-effect continues inland but loses some of it's punch. There will also be some quick hitting snow as the cold air switches the rain to snow Wednesday night, but this would be an inch or less.
The snow on Christmas will likely impact travel across the state. If you are heading east out towards Detroit, the snow will be lighter and not as frequent. When you are driving around West Michigan, that is when you will encounter the most issues. If you are heading north towards Traverse City, they will also be experiencing lake-effect snow. This will cause major headaches on the roads as you likely won't get much of a break from the lower visibility and slick conditions traveling north. If you are traveling south, it will once again be West Michigan that gives you the most trouble out on the roads. Once you get far enough into Indiana, Illinois or Ohio, the snow will be light to nonexistent.
One other thing to keep in mind is how cold the air will be for both Christmas Eve and Christmas day. The wind will be strong and air temperatures will fall into the 20s and teens. This means wind chills will be in the single digits to teens.
As with any system still four to five days out, things will change with how it evolves, where it tracks and how much cold air it brings. If the cold air isn't as significant as currently projected, snow amounts could be less than what we are expecting as of Sunday morning. There could be a better shot of snowfall before the lake-effect begins Wednesday night into Thursday, which could up the snow totals. Stay tuned for updates!