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Our First Live Stream & February 27th 2024 Severe Weather Event

Live Stream Recap & Storm Chasing Operations:

Here at West Michigan Weather, we have many goals for 2024, one such goal; is to provide live storm coverage from the ground for as many events as we can. We've spent the winter preparing for this and this past Tuesday we finally got to do our first test of our setup in the face of a severe weather event! To say that we are excited for the rest of the spring and summer, would be a major understatement!

While we didn't see any of the higher intensity severe weather that was a definite possibility this past Tuesday, we were overall very happy with the way that the live stream performed and we did get to see some severe hail and intercepted our first Tornado Warned storm of the year!

  • We had great cell/internet coverage for almost 95% of the chase! We dropped off only two times in fairly rural and heavily wooded areas.

  • We were able to provide live coverage and ground truth on the tornado-warned storm in Berrien and VanBuren Counties in Michigan Tuesday evening.

  • We learned a lot about how to operate the stream efficiently, had great community engagement (especially for a severe weather event that was largely outside of our coverage area), and have plenty of ideas for additional components that will improve the overall quality of the stream and our capability to bring accurate, timely ground truth to the Michiganders that need it most!

We activated "storm chase mode" shortly after lunch on Tuesday and headed south toward Kalamazoo, MI. After a quick stop for an early dinner and gas we decided that we needed to proceed even further south and west; into northwestern Indiana and northeastern Illinois, to give us the best chance of intercepting some severe weather during the daylight hours.

We traveled along the southern tip of Lake Michigan into far western Illinois right off I-57 and waited for storms to develop ahead of the ongoing conglomeration of storms seen in the radar image to the left.

After waiting for some time without additional storm development we decided that we would need to head toward the western Chicago suburbs to intercept our best shot at some severe hazards. Once we arrived in the residential areas along I-88 we waited for the storms to arrive and intercepted quite a beefy hail storm with hailstones up to the size of a half-dollar coin in diameter.

As we finished intercepting the storms in northeastern Illinois and northwestern Indiana we began our journey back towards Michigan in the hopes of intercepting the storms on the other side of Lake Michigan after they crossed the lake. As we approached the Michigan City, IN area we very quickly began to zero in on one supercell just offshore of Benton Harbor that was exhibiting tornadic radar presentation.

We traveled north on I-94 up into Michigan and quickly caught up to this storm. Shortly thereafter the National Weather Service issued a Tornado Warning. We kept our focus on providing warning information from the NWS to the residents in the affected areas via the stream and social media, watching the physical storm structure for wall clouds, funnels, and/or tornadoes, and radar presentation. Thankfully the supercell failed at tornado genesis through Berrien and VanBuren counties. As the storm crossed the I-94 and US-131 interchange it appeared to be weakening.

Unfortunatley, for Calhoun County, the storm was actually cycling, not weakening, and soon succeeded in tornado genesis and spawned a high-end EF-1 tornado. We had already abandoned the storm at this point so unfortunatley we don't have any footage of this, nor were we able to be part of the warning process for that area. We'll talk about this a little bit more in the section below but this event and the subsequent tornadoes in Michigan should serve as a great reminder for Michiganders to always be weather aware, have multiple ways to receive severe weather alerts, and have a plan in place in case you find yourself in the shadow of a potential tornado.

Severe Weather Event Setup:

This severe weather event had been very well forecasted with the Storm Prediction Center outlining rare 15% risks for parts of lower Michigan as early as their Day 5 Convective Outlook. Despite the advanced forecasting, several uncertainties remained even hours before the event got underway.

During the springtime, the Midwest and Great Lakes regions often see very favorable atmospheric wind profiles (kinematics) that would be supportive of severe weather but we almost always lack the thermal environments (thermodynamics) that need to coexist with those wind fields to initiate and support the longevity of thunderstorms and any associated severe weather threat.

On this particular day in late February, those two things unseasonably came together and allowed for hail, damaging winds, and a couple of tornadoes to impact Michigan, including one aforementioned tornado in our coverage area, in Calhoun County.

By late afternoon on the day of the event, the Storm Prediction Center had upgraded from a Slight Risk to an Enhanced Risk for parts of extreme southwestern lower Michigan denoted by the orange color shading (pictured as the last image in the thumbnail gallery above).

A Severe Thunderstorm Watch was issued.

Aside from the 2 tornadoes Michigan saw several other severe weather hazards including large hail up to Tennis Ball size and damaging wind gusts.

One thing that we found particularly of note, as did several others within the weather community, is that the areas of Enhanced Risk that the SPC had delineated had not verified well in terms of the tornado threat.

Here is the SPC Tornado Outlook overlayed with filtered severe weather reports for tornadoes only. Each red dot represents a tornado report or confirmed tornado.

You may notice that not a single tornado report is to be found within the yellow-shaded 10% SIGTOR Parameter Delineations.

The graphic below will provide a little bit more clarity on what each of those risk areas represents. The black hatch marks on the graphic above represent areas of "Significant Tornado Parameter"

The fact that not a single tornado report is found within the areas of highest risk should not cause people to doubt the SPC/NWS, complain to the SPC/NWS, or say that "we {the weather community} got it wrong again!"

Rather, this example should serve as a reminder to always take severe weather risks, even the lower-end risks, very seriously and to always be weather aware.

Conclusion: We're very much looking forward to continuing to provide live coverage to West Michigan this summer as we head into a potentially above-average severe weather season.

Thank you to those of you who tuned in and watched our stream! Thank you to those who shared! Thank you to those who are supporting us financially! We couldn't do it without all of you!

Make sure you're following us on Social Media and subscribe to our YouTube channel so that you're notified when we are forecasting severe weather and can take action when it becomes imminent!

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