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Winter Storm. Blizzard Potential Continues To Increase.

8:00pm EST Thursday Update:





The primary focus for this update is to address three things:

  1. The issuance of Winter Storm Warnings for our entire coverage area by our friends at the NWS Weather Forecast Offices in both Grand Rapid and in Northern Indiana.

  2. The increasing concerns for power outages and the after-effects those may have.

  3. Increasing confidence for more prolonged/widespread blizzard-like conditions.


First and foremost we want to highlight the issuance of Winter Storm Warnings for all of our coverage area. Text products with the average/mean hazards for the entire area are below. Please check with your local NWS Office via www.weather.gov for specific information on your location.

  • Widespread heavy snow with accumulations of 6-14 inches

  • Winds gusting as high as 50mph

    • Gusty winds may bring down tree limbs and/or power lines resulting in scattered power outages.

  • Blowing snow will significantly reduce visibility

  • Travel will become very difficult to impossible

  • Near blizzard conditions possible


Graphics:


The next thing that needs to be discussed, seriously, is the growing concern for power outages. Since the issuance of the Warnings this afternoon some weather computer models have shown increased potential for stronger wind gusts, perhaps as high as 55mph. We saw scattered power outages across the region from heavy snow and gusty winds during the system on Tuesday. These winds, which are, at least, twice as strong as what we saw Tuesday combined with the very impressive forecasted wet/heavy snow accumulations will give the potential for a much more widespread and more prolonged period of power outages across the region. What is more so the problem, is the forecasted conditions after this system moves through. We will have very little, if any, recovery time before additional hazardous conditions in the form of heavy lake-effect snow, continued gusty/strong winds, and bitterly cold arctic air and associated very cold, perhaps, sub-zero wind chills move in which will dampen efforts to clear roads, restore power, and return to normal. This is not something to be taken lightly and the bottom line is that residents need to be prepared for the possibility of prolonged power outages in a very cold weather pattern. Here is a helpful graphic from our friends at NWS Grand Rapids regarding winter power outages.



The final thing of note is once again the increasing wind potential on the computer weather models, as aforementioned. Aside from power outages and tree damage, the other effect these stronger winds will likely have is the increase in longevity of blizzard-like conditions. If confidence continues to increase in this regard we will likely see the issuance of Blizzard Warning (BZW) products for certain areas in our coverage area. Regardless of if Blizzard Warnings are issued, we want to highlight the risk of significant impacts to travel due to extremely reduced visibility and whiteout conditions. Travel is not advised if at all possible from late Friday afternoon through the day on Saturday.


Stay tuned for updates from West Michigan Weather! Follow us on Social Media for live updates on conditions and "Snow Chasing" Operations! We'll provide our next update tomorrow morning.


 

Previous Discussion (Issued at 7:00am EST):


No major changes to our forecast for this weekend. All eyes are on this significant Winter Storm that is forecasted to move into the region as early as 8am Friday Morning.


Widespread heavy snow and impressive snowfall accumulation in the double-digit range, blowing/drifting snow, reduced visibilities and whiteout conditions, very dangerous travel, power outages, and bitter cold expected.


There are 2 main things that we don't yet know. First, whether or not wind speeds will be sustained over 35mph for long enough during the time of the highest "light/fluffy" snowfall rates to warrant the issuance of Blizzard Warnings due to significantly reduced visibilities. Regardless of whether or not a Blizzard Warning is issued, there will be times, without a doubt, when blizzard conditions exist. Second, similarly to the last system, we are faced with the likelihood of some mixed precipitation or a brief change over to all rain for portions of the area. If this occurs, the areas that see rain will see total snow accumulations dampened by a few inches or more before the rain changes back over to all snow by Saturday.


Regardless of the aforementioned uncertainties, weather conditions will rapidly deteriorate for much of the area by Friday afternoon and will continue through much of the day, if not all day, on Saturday. During this time travel will become very difficult to impossible, especially during the Friday afternoon and evening commutes, and we expect widespread school closures and scattered business closures on Friday in anticipation of these dangerous travel conditions.


Aside from the travel impacts, the other concern that is also of note is the potential for scattered power outages and tree damage due to strong winds ranging from 35-50mph from Friday into Saturday. Obviously, power outages during the winter are never a good thing. Get prepared now, ensure your devices are charged, you have flashlights and extra batteries, food/water, have a way to stay warm, ensure generators are being used outdoors and in a well-ventilated area, avoid the use of candles, and check in on friends and loved ones. Bitter cold will move into the region no later than Saturday night with wind chills reaching into the single digits and sub-zero ranges. Any remaining power outages will have a high life-safety risk, especially for the vulnerable populations in our communities,a s concerns for hypothermia and other cold-related health effects emerge.


While snowfall totals will likely be very impressive, as aforementioned, the one thing I always stress in messaging for these types of systems is that, at some point, it doesn't matter if you're location sees 6 inches or a foot, the real concern is the potential for blowing and drifting snow and the significantly reduced visibilities that result.


Bitter cold and continued travel impacts from lake-effect snow showers are expected to continue through mid-week next week.


Have a way to receive weather alerts, we expect warnings to go out later today or tonight, once warnings are issued make your final preparations and then get off the roads and make plans to avoid travel and hunker down until this storm has passed.


Our next update is expected this afternoon/evening as we release our latest School Closing Outlook and will likely opt to provide an update to this discussion as well.

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