WEST MICHIGAN - As we welcome in the New Year of 2021 today, we will also welcome in a massive winter storm affecting the eastern third of the United States. This storm system has generated tornado watches and warnings across eastern Texas, while just two hundred miles to the west, winter storm warnings across western Texas. It's also spreading a wide swath of freezing rain, sleet, and an icy mix from the lower Mississippi Valley, through the Midwest, and what will eventually get into the Great Lakes.
Our concern with this system is ice. Freezing rain, sleet, and an icy mix that accumulates on tree branches, power lines, and roadways can become treacherous quickly. The icy mix will develop from south to north across southern lower Michigan this afternoon. The possibility of anywhere to .10" of ice along the I-96 corridor, to as much as .50" possible along the I-94 corridor. So we expect the thickest ice (perhaps up to one half inch) across our southern counties before this changes to all rain and eventually some snow. Our highest snowfall totals from this system (after the freezing rain/ice) will occur along and north of I-96 with around 2" to 4" likely by the time this system moves out Saturday morning. An earlier changeover to rain will mitigate the effects of the ice and lessen the impacts across our southern counties if we can wrap enough warm air into the system.
Perhaps one saving grace is we are not expecting strong winds with this system, which could put additional strain/stress on power lines. Brisk east-northeast winds at about 10 to 15 miles per hour will be the rule of thumb. In most areas, temperatures will be held only to around 30/32 degrees. The graphic below is what we expect the radar image to look like by 6 PM Friday. You can see the blue is snow, the pink is ice, and the green is rain.
Take a look below at where we expect our air temperatures to be at 6 PM this evening. You can see why freezing rain/sleet/ice may be an issue in many locations as temperatures hover at or below freezing.
Let's look at the output from our forecast models for precipitation amounts for ice accumulation. The first model below is our RPM Model.
Our next ice accumulation map is from the European Model below. You can see this model is a bit more aggressive with ice, especially across our southern counties.
The ice accumulation map below is from our GFS forecast model.
All of our area remains under a WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY through 6 A.M. Saturday.
We expect conditions for travel to deteriorate through the afternoon and evening. Travel is not advised. Once the freezing rain wraps up, we'll see snow on the backside of this system later this evening and overnight. We expect about 2" to 4" to fall along and north of I-96, and lesser amounts south. See snow accumulation map below.
The image below is what we expect radar to look like at midnight tonight.
The remainder of our weekend and the beginning of next week look fairly dry and quiet once this system departs. Get the complete West Michigan forecast at www.fox17online.com/weather.