Major storm system likely to bring significant rain, ice snow, and wind

Widespread Prolonged Power Outages Possible
Posted at 9:20 AM, Jan 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-12 03:07:19-05

WEST MICHIGAN — A major storm system will be heading our way for the upcoming weekend. Will it bring a big snow to West Michigan? Likely not, but it will bring heavy January rain and perhaps significant ice to portions of the viewing area.

A winter storm watch is in effect for most of West Michigan from 10 p.m. Friday to 10 a.m. Sunday.

A few showers are possible through the day on Friday, but temperatures will generally be in the 40s. For that reason, we're not concerned about ice or any other form of wintry precipitation during the day on Friday. In fact, even on Friday night, it will take some time for the rain to change over to freezing rain and sleet. This is a look at how Future Track HD sees things late Friday evening:


As you can see, most of the precipitation on Friday evening will fall as light rain showers. But there is a chance that some wintry precip. could mix in at the above time (11pm) to the northwest of Grand Rapids.

After midnight, colder air will continue to filter into the area upon stiff north to northeast winds. This will cause the freezing line to gradually sink southward, so that much of the area will be dealing with a combination of freezing rain, sleet, and snow by sunrise:


As one can see, many areas along and south of I-94 will still be dealing with just rain at this time. However, the freezing line will continue to slide southward during the day on Saturday. This means even our southernmost communities have a good chance of seeing at least some freezing rain as well:


Areas in blue to the northwest of Grand Rapids in the above image will see mainly snow, or a combination of snow and sleet with limited amounts of freezing rain mixing in. By the time all is said and done early Sunday morning, this is what we're looking at in terms of ice, sleet, and snow accumulation:


Even the green zone above that sit's in the "mainly rain" category will likely have some issues with minor flooding, especially near rivers and streams. In fact, 3 to 4 inches of rain is possible from Friday into Saturday across much of West Michigan.

For that reason, much of the area will be under a Flood Watch from late Friday night through late Saturday night:


And to add further insult to injury, strong winds are expected as the freezing rain is falling.

There could even be some higher gusts than what our model is indicating above; on the order of 40 to 50 mph. These strong winds combined with the weight of the ice on the trees and power lines will likely cause a significant number of power outages. Here's a summary of what to expect with this event:

As the above graphic suggests, be sure to have your generators ready to use if you have one, charge your cell phones and other electronic devices, gas up your vehicles, and be sure to have at least a two day supply of food handy.

Interestingly, after this system passes by, we actually see temperatures jump back to well above normal levels early next week. This should help with clean-up efforts next week. Be sure to keep it tuned to FOX 17 for further updates on this complex forecast!