A Note from the National Weather Service

Bill's Blog

A Message from the G.R. NWS:

US National Weather Service Grand Rapids Michigan 

Above is an excellent graphic from our Storm Prediction Center explaining their severe weather risk categories. Wednesday night, much of West Michigan was in the second highest risk category for severe weather. While there were certainly pockets of damage and power outages in our state, more damage occurred in Wisconsin compared to Michigan. After reading comments from last night’s event, we believe that several valid concerns were discussed and we would like to address two major themes that emerged. This will help us to improve moving forward so we appreciate the polite and honest feedback.

1) Better communicate the forecast uncertainty or other possible outcomes. This would help prevent the worst case scenario from coming across as the only possible outcome. In the case of last night’s event, the higher-end scenario was actually more likely than not to occur, which is very unusual for our region…and that is why we used stronger wording that you do not see with the vast majority of our severe weather events. We internally discussed several possible ways the event could unfold besides the worst case scenario. One of the commenters mentioned that it would have been nice to know there was another horse in the race (another possible outcome with some chance of happening). That has us thinking about how we can improve communication of alternative scenarios without minimizing the risks that come with the worst case scenario.

2) Follow up on events that didn’t pan out as expected. We actually do internal reviews of our events on a regular basis by looking at how well we understood the meteorology, how well we planned and staffed for the event, and how well we communicated what we expected to happen. The communication part of this event really stands out to us now. Several commenters said they actually lost sleep based on our messages and now, understandably, are wondering why things didn’t turn out as expected. We create summaries of what happened and why for more significant events that we share on our webpage and social media. However, it sounds like there also is interest in hearing about what *didn’t* happen and why. This is an interesting idea and we wonder how we might approach this. Any thoughts are appreciated. You can comment here on the G.R. NWS facebook page.

Severe Weather Outlook Map for Wed. Night 12 28 21

This was the Severe Weather Outlook Map from the Storm Prediction Center. Severe Storms did develop as expected in far NW Wisconsin. In fact, if you look at the tape of our news, at 6 pm Ellen Bacca drew a circle in NW Wisconsin telling viewers that here’s where the storms would develop – that was before any storms had formed. So, we got that part right. The storms were expected to move from NW to SE following the red color or Moderate Risk on the map. Here was the actual severe weather reports:

Storm Reports for Wed. 7 28 21

There were 5 tornadoes in Wisconsin, along with 76 reports of wind damage and hail up to the size of ping-pong balls. There were a couple of reports of winds that reached hurricane force. There were also reports of very heavy rain and flooding.

Instead of the storms moving from NW to SE – the storms (about 315 degrees), the storms moved NNW to SSE (from about 330 or 340 degrees. So the heaviest storms stayed to our west. Note the severe weather reports in SW Michigan. The late evening Severe Thunderstorm Watch was right on….the watch included Allegan and Kalamazoo Counties to the south, but not Kent Co.

BTW as of early Friday morning, there are still 13,097 customers without power in Wisconsin and 3,587 in Michigan. Illinois was down to 1,544 and some of those were from Thursday’s storms in Central and Southern Illinois. Com. Ed. did an awesome job getting power back on in the Chicago area.

Severe Weather Outlook Map for Saturday 7 31 21

This is the Severe Weather Outlook Map for Saturday PM/night 7/31. There is a Marginal Risk of a severe storm north of a line from Muskegon to Saginaw Bay. The main threat would be isolated strong winds.

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