GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The biggest storm in a decade delivered whipping winds and blizzard conditions the week of Christmas with lingering affects lasting through Christmas Day. The storm is considered to be just as impactful, if not more impactful than the Groundhog Day Blizzard of 2011.


Snowfall reports are rather sparse, and have been difficult to accurately measure thanks to significant blowing and drifting. Many areas near and west of Grand Rapids saw over a foot of snow, with over 22 inches reported at the Ford International Airport. Less snow was reported farther south and east, with places near Battle Creek reporting closer to 6-8 inches.

Snow was continuous for more than 54 hours as of Saturday evening with official “blizzard” conditions confirmed at several weather observation stations. Grand Rapids, Muskegon, Holland, Kalamazoo, and South Haven not only hit “blizzard criteria,” they each did for several hours.

A “blizzard” is defined as conditions when snow is falling or blowing with winds of 35 mph or greater, reducing visibility to a quarter of a mile or less for at least three hours.

Almost all the snow that was received in Michigan was due to lake effect snow. The snow that began Thursday in West Michigan was carried by an area of low pressure that underwent explosive bomb cyclongenesis strengthening as it departed into Canada. The storm became so strong as it departed that winds didn’t begin gusting to blizzard criteria until Friday afternoon, well after the center of low pressure had moved out of West Michigan.

Winds were expected to gust from 35 mph to 55 mph regularly with gusts to 60 mph possible. Friday provided the strongest winds from the storm. Peak gusts across West Michigan regularly buffeted above 40 mph. A handful of power outages occurred, but were quickly resolved.

Drifts in Holland Saturday afternoon have been reported to be as high as 4-5 feet. Road conditions were rough all across West Michigan. Cars in Bangor Township were trapped in drifts Saturday, including a sheriff’s cruiser.

Areas outside of the blizzard warning saw less snow. Counties that were included in the winter storm warning are currently estimated to have climbed to 5-10″ of storm total snow, but further reports by Sunday morning will reveal a more detailed look. Regardless, whipping wind and fast gusts still produced frequent near-zero visibility frequently with well below-zero wind chills.


While the Blizzard of ’78 had a much higher impact on West Michigan, it is interesting to note more snow fell this blizzard than the one in ’78. This system has already dropped more than 20″ of snow in Grand Rapids. The total snowfall for Grand Rapids in 1978 was 19.5″.