A Blizzard Warning will go into effect starting at 4 pm today (Thu.) and continue until 7 pm Saturday for Allegan, Barry, Kalamazoo, Kent, Lake, Mason, Muskegon, Newaygo, Oceana, Ottawa, Van Buren, Berrien, and Cass Counties. This is for up to 10-20″ of new snow, wind gusts over 45 mph, very significant blowing and drifting snow, visibilities reduced to near zero at times, scattered power outages, temperatures falling into the teens and wind chill factors below zero.

Note: If the Blizzard Warning starts at 4 pm – don’t be surprised if there’s not a blizzard at 4 pm. Just like we issue Tornado Watches and Warnings before the tornado hits, Blizzard Warnings begin before the first area experiences blizzard conditions. It will be getting progressively worse Thursday night – the most likely time and area to see blizzard conditions will be Friday along the lakeshore.

Blizzard Warning in red, Winter Storm Warning in pink

A Winter Storm Warning will go into effect starting at 4 pm Thursday until Saturday morning for Calhoun, Clare, Clinton, Eaton, Gratiot, Ingham, Ionia, Mecosta, and Montcalm Counties. This is for 6-10″ of snow, substantial blowing and drifting snow, scattered power outages, temperatures falling into the teens and wind chills below zero.

NOTE: The Last Blizzard Warning for Kent, Ottawa and Kalamazoo Counties was Feb. 1, 2011.

NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE BLIZZARD CRITERIA:
—SUSTAINED WINDS OR FREQUENT GUSTS TO 35 MPH OR GREATER
—VISIBILITY DOWN TO ¼ MILE OR LESS
*BOTH MUST BE MET FOR 3 CONSECUTIVE HOURS OR MORE

*NOTE: THERE IS NO SNOWFALL REQUIREMENT FOR A BLIZZARD. IT’S BASED ON WIND SPEED AND VISIBILITY.

From the Gaylord National Weather Service Wed. AM: “I’M OLD ENOUGH TO REMEMBER THE BLIZZARD OF JAN, 1978, AND THE BLIZZARD OF JAN, 1979 GROWING UP DOWNSTATE. THE SURFACE PRESSURE WITH THIS STORM IS ALMOST AS DEEP AS BOTH OF THEM. WE HAD MAJOR HIGHWAYS AND SECONDARY ROADS SHUT FOR DAYS. THIS COULD BE AN EQUIVALENT. IT DEFINITELY LOOKS LIKE IT COULD SURPASS THE FEB 2019 STORM WITH THE DRIFTING AS WELL

IMPACTS:

• Hazardous Travel Conditions Thursday Night to Sunday, Most Dangerous Conditions Friday to Friday Night. All holiday travel plans may be affected, including air travel. Vehicles could become stuck in snow drifts.

• Heavy snow and blizzard or near blizzard conditions possible early Friday into Saturday.

• Power outages possible. Slower recovery Sunday possible due to breezy conditions (still some drifting), snow, and cold temperatures.

• Wind chills below zero likely Friday to Sunday.

Here’s what the Northern Indiana National Weather Service wrote: “Blizzard conditions possible. A wintry mix Thursday transits to snow Thursday night. Snow will be moderate to heavy at times late Thursday night through Friday. The snow will transition to lake-effect snow through Saturday. Storm total snow amounts will be quite varied, exceeding 8 inches near Lake Michigan to a few inches in northwest Ohio. West winds could gust as high as 45-55 mph, and will cause significant blowing and drifting snow.”

Graphic on the coming storm from the G.R. National Weather Service

ALSO: “A STORM WATCH HAS BEEN ISSUED FOR LAKE MICHIGAN FROM LATE THURSDAY NIGHT THROUGH SATURDAY EVENING. (A Storm Watch is between a Gale Watch and a Hurricane Watch).” Waves on Lake Michigan could get as high as 20 feet!

20-foot waves forecast on Lakes Michigan and Superior
"THE MOST SIGNIFICANT IMPACTS WILL COME FROM FRIDAY MORNING THROUGH  
FRIDAY NIGHT AS THE LOW CONTINUES TO STRENGTHEN. HEAVY SNOW AND   
VERY STRONG WINDS WILL LEAD TO BLIZZARD OR NEAR BLIZZARD   
CONDITIONS. NEAR BLIZZARD CONDITIONS WILL POTENTIALLY CONTINUE   
INTO SATURDAY DUE TO CONTINUED STRONG WINDS AND FALLING TEMPS AND   
LAKE EFFECT SNOW. THE VERY STRONG WINDS WILL LEAD TO SCATTERED (TO   
POTENTIALLY NUMEROUS) POWER OUTAGES.

Wind gusts at 2 pm Friday – this is the European model

The map above shows forecast wind gusts Friday PM. The fastest winds have not occurred yet from G. R. to the north and northeast. Note the 67 mph peak gust over Lake Michigan. If this were summer – we’d blanket the area with severe thunderstorm warnings for this type of wind.

This type of storm can cause a “standing seiche” on the Great Lakes with the strong surface wind “pushing” the water from one side of the lake toward the other. With a north-northwest wind, this could cause the water level to rise a foot or more in SW Michigan and N Indiana. Fortunately, the water level of Lake Michigan is 11″ lower than it was one year ago.

It looks like a progressive pattern – after about 3 days in the cold air, temperatures moderate back to near to even a little above average by late next week. There will be plenty of snow on the ground between Christmas and New Years for the skiers, boarders, sledders and snowmobilers.

Here’s one of our forecast models. This is for 1 pm Friday afternoon. There is a deep low pressure center over southern Lake Huron. Note how close the black lines (isobars – lines of equal pressure) are over West Michigan. Generally, the closer those lines are together, the faster the wind. Those lines are almost touching each other. That implies a VERY strong wind.

Keep your cell phones and computers charged. It’s best to have a full tank of gas, but driving is strongly discouraged from Friday into at least Saturday morning. If your power does go out, be patient. Line crews can’t get up in their buckets until the wind has died down to a reasonable speed. If you can, bring your dogs inside. Feeding the birds would be a kind thing to do. They’ll have a little harder time with the cold, the wind and deep snow cover.