Frigid week of weather ahead for W. MI

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Arctic air has poured into West Michigan for the weekend and it is going to get even colder Wednesday with below zero wind chills and frequent snow showers. 

Highs won’t climb above 15 degrees for a single day this week. 

Frigid air will continue to spill down from the Arcitic as waves of energy from the circumpolar vortex get displaced over West Michigan. Lake Michigan will help sheild us from the extreme cold since so much of it is still open water. 

The effect of the buffering of Lake Michigan against the cold was seen early Friday morning when wind chill values were a good 15 degrees warmer on our side of the lake. 

Wednesday will be the coldest day — hghs could struggle to hit zero. There have only been four times in the last century when the highs have been that cold. The last occurence was more than 20 years ago in 1994.

Here are the coldest highs in the last century for the Grand Rapids climate station (picked because it has the most thorough log of historic climate data):

  • Jan. 18, 1994: High of zero degrees
  • Feb. 4, 1918: High of  0 degrees
  • Jan. 19, 1994: High of minus 2 degrees
  • Jan. 15, 1972: High of minus 3 degrees

Wind chills Wednesday and the following Saturday could be substantially cold — in the minus 20 degrees to minus 30 degrees range. 

The extensive cold will stick around through at least the first week of February. 

Warming shelters will be open in Grand Rapids through March. On Friday, the Grand Rapids Police Department tweeted a list of locations and their hours.

HOW THE WEATHER IS GOING TO AFFECT THE ROADS

Once temperatures dip below 20 degree, road salt stops working effectively, especially if snow keeps falling.

“Once it gets below 20, that salt refreezes so much quicker that if you can’t really dry it up then it’s going to refreeze and create ice,” Jerry Byrne, the director of operations at the Kent County Road Commission, told 24 Hour News 8 over the phone Friday. “Really, for the motorists, they see pavement, but the reality of it is they really see a very thin layer of ice.”

Byrne said that over the next week, his crews would be turning to sand to create traction. He was also hopeful that some snow would help with that effort.

“We can scrape it (the snow) off and there’s still some traction left behind versus the ice that we really create when you just get that thin snow and you try to melt it off and it turns to a sheet of ice,” he said. “So in some cases, a little more snow isn’t always bad.”

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