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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The combination of heavy snow, gusty winds and brutal cold are leading to some of the harshest four days of winter weather we have experienced in decades.
Snow that fell Monday continues in the form of lake-effect Wednesday and keeps adding up along with the frigid cold, creating numerous travel issues. Totals are proving difficult to measure due to blowing and drifting. But a few have braved the cold to gives us some very impressive three day totals as of 9 a.m. Wednesday:
The most Storm Team 8 saw was a report of 20 inches near New Era in Oceana County. Locally, 12 inches has fallen in Grandville and Walker.
This recent snow has pushed snow depth levels to their highest fo the season. Storm Team 8 consistently measured a 13-inch snow depth at WOOD TV8 in downtown Grand Rapids. The light and fresh snow in combination with an increasing wind will result in a lot of blowing snow.
This has resulted in some of the highest snow depths of the winter so far.
The National Weather Service has issued a Winter Storm Warning for most of the area until 7 p.m. Thursday for snow, blowing and drifting snow along with dangerously cold wind chills.
Additional snow through this evening will be 2-4 inches in most of the warning area.
In any case, the snow and threatening cold continues to close hundreds of schools. Grand Rapids Public Schools canceled its classes Thursday and Friday — meaning the district will be closed for an unprecedented five consecutive days.
The NWS has issued a Winter Storm Warning for most of the area until 1 p.m. Thursday for lake-effect snow and bitterly cold wind chills.
POLAR VORTEX VISITS W. MI
Thankfully the wind will subside a bit overnight.
Blowing snow and incredibly cold wind chills will persist through Wednesday, but the wind will relax a bit Wednesday night, allowing the wind chill temperatures to rise a bit.
The NWS has issued wind chill warnings until as late as 7 p.m. Thursday for some counties. Where the air is not flowing off the unfrozen waters of Lake Michigan, the wind chills will not be quite as cold. Wind chill temperatures will likely remain below zero for nearly 100 hours from Tuesday through Friday as the polar vortex moves through.
The culprit behind this dangerously cold weather: a pprtion of the polar vortex expected to sink south across the Great Lakes. A polar vortex represents an area of the coldest temperatures relative to average in the Northern Hemisphere under an upper level low. During rare occasions, this vortex will dislodge from the polar regions and drop south into lower latitudes bringing frigid Arctic temperatures with it. Brutal cold temperatures exist under the polar vortex.
The peak of it will settle in Wednesday with highs likely exceeding zero during the daylight hours. The record coldest maximum temperature for Jan. 30 was set well over a century ago in 1899 of 4 degrees. So far, we’ve had a high of two above at midnight and the temperatures have been falling ever since. Here’s a list of the record cold highs that did not break zero degrees.
The Kent County Road Commission says the bitter cold will only make road-clearing more difficult.
“The steel gets very brittle when it gets that cold. So what could be a bump in the curb or catching a manhole that’s a little bit high, instead of maybe bending apart, now we have to worry about it (our equipment) breaking apart. So it really does put an added strain with these cold temps on the steel itself,” explained Jerry Byrne, director of operations for the road commission.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer declared a state of emergency for the entire state due to the bitterly cold temperatures expected in the next few days. She also activated the state’s Emergency Operations Center, which coordinates responses among multiple agencies.
Warming shelters have been opened in some West Michigan cities to help people escape the frigid temperatures.
Authorities also remind you to keep your pets out of the cold.
Too cold for you – Too cold for your pet! Safe pet tips: keep them indoors whenever possible, wipe them off, consider an extra layer during outside breaks, and keep antifreeze out of reach. See a pet in danger? Animal Control (616) 632-7300 / 911 #ColdDaysAhead #StaySafeStayWarm pic.twitter.com/IVXMV6aNOF— Grand Rapids Police (@GrandRapidsPD) January 27, 2019
Pipes may burst this week with overnight lows dropping below zero Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. To combat this, be sure to keep your heat on, open any cupboards hiding pipes open so heat can circulate around and run a pencil-width stream of water on your faucets.
The city of Big Rapids has issued a running water advisory for its residents because of the potential problem.
>>App users: Photos from the deep freeze
After this though, a remarkable warm up is likely this weekend that could reverse apparent temperatures by Sunday by a staggering 80 to 100 degrees!
The European model has 50s along the Michigan-Indiana state line.
Even though a warmup is expected this weekend, history indicates when polar vortexes move through in January, the following February is colder than average.