GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Storms Wednesday night look likely to bring a punch of powerful winds, and West Michigan may see a dose of it by early morning Thursday.
Storm Team 8 has been monitoring the storms firing off in Wisconsin late Wednesday into Thursday morning. So far, the severe line has been tracking more south than east, heading more toward Illinois than West Michigan. We are still expecting strong storms to move into West Michigan before sunrise.
The biggest threat will be powerful wind gusts and heavy rain with the strongest impacts from 3am to 6am. Storms may linger in the area as late at 10 a.m. Thursday.
Each storm event has it’s own fingerprint in terms of what they are most likely to bring in terms of severe weather. The two primary threats that stick out for us will be the potential of severe straight-line winds (58 mph or greater) accompanied with torrential rainfall.
Here’s the latest outlook from the Storm Prediction Center:
With the way the outlook is oriented, you can tell where the storms are likely to travel from northwest to southeast. The severe threat is obviously greater in Wisconsin than Michigan, so the question remains, how long will the storms be able to maintain their strength as they enter Lower Michigan?
In terms of the other severe weather variables such as hail and tornadoes, the SPC has it almost exclusively on the other side of the lake.
The possibility of one inch diameter hail is only at 5% within a 25 radius west of US-131. This pales in comparison with the 30% potential within a 25 mile point in north-central Wisconsin. During storm initiation hail could be greater than two inches there!
The tornado threat is rather low as well but not zero. Depending on the track of the surface low we could receive enough direction speed shear near the warm/cold front interface that a brief tornado will be possible.
The atmospheric set up is such that a rare “derecho” event is possible. Such historic events have occurred in Michigan in 1991 and 1998 (background is radar image of the 1998 event) and as recent as August 20 last year in Iowa, Wisconsin and Illinois. They are characterized by widespread, long-lasting straight line winds that last six hours or more.
Outside of the severe weather possibilities is the threat of torrential rain. All of the forecast models have the potential of an inch or more of rain with the possibility of up to five inches locally.
We are in the middle of summer and it’s a very busy time of year for recreation, with state parks at max capacity. I do not recommend sleeping in a tent tonight. Also, bring in any lose objects around your yard and on your patio and deck.
Make sure you have a way to receive the latest radar images and severe weather alerts. I can’t think of a better way to start than downloading Storm Team 8’s severe weather app.