GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Call it a blizzard – conditions meeting blizzard criteria has been verified by the National Weather Service for several cities along and west of US-131 today.
Snowfall totals near a foot have fallen in several lakeshore communities, and widespread totals of 10 to 18 inches of snow from US-131 westward are expected. With winds continuing to gust over 40 mph at times, blizzard conditions are expected to persist overnight. Numerous road closures are occurring both on and off the freeways.
Winter storm warnings have been extended for Mecosta, Montcalm, and Ionia and are set to expire at 4 a.m. Saturday. Winter storm warnings have been extended for Eaton, Calhoun, and Branch counties until 7 a.m. Saturday.
This is the first widespread blizzard warning West Michigan has seen since 2011, when the Groundhog Day blizzard hit. In February of 2019, a few counties north of Grand Rapids saw blizzard warnings.
This storm is set to rival the impacts of the Groundhog Day blizzard of 2011, if not be a bit worse. There is more snow forecast with this system, and stronger winds.
Here are some takeaways for now through late Saturday:
- Lake effect snow continuing, if not intensifying, overnight into Saturday
- Snow showers inland, especially down towards I-94
- Wind chills below zero through Saturday
- Widespread blowing and drifting of snow through Saturday
- Frequently near-zero visibility especially US-131 to the west
CONDITIONS WILL REMAIN TREACHEROUS
Blizzard warnings are effective until 7 p.m. Saturday. Any travel until then is discouraged, and travel impacts will linger into the day on Sunday but by then should be greatly reduced.
The storm has gone through rapid intensification called “bomb cyclogenesis” from Thursday night through today. A “bomb cyclone” is a low pressure system that intensifies by dropping at least 24 mb in 24 hours. This explains why we’re seeing the strong winds, and the cold air wrapping in behind is what’s kicking off the lake effect snow.
ARCTIC AIR AND POWER OUTAGES
Luckily, few power outages were reported Friday. Power outages do remain possible, especially near the lakeshore through Saturday evening. Winds have already gusted as high as 60 mph with several 50 mph gusts reported. Power outages have been quick and few.
Gusts are expected to continue in the 40-50 mph range on Saturday. Falling snow will couple with blowing snow to make for difficult travel.
Difficult conditions will slow line crews working to restore power to those who lose it. Arctic air will keep temperatures in the teens to single digits, with wind chills remaining below zero through Saturday. Anyone that loses power will be at risk of being without for longer than usual and lose heat from their homes faster than usual.
Consumers Energy says it will have an ample number of crew works restoring power. It is encouraging people to prepare by unplugging sensitive electronics and making sure you have an emergency kit ready.
If you lose power, there are several warming stations open in West Michigan. Call 211 to find out where the nearest warming station is in your area.
Governor Whitmer activated the State Emergency Operations Center Friday evening in response to the blizzard. The activation allows the state to provide additional resources to local communities.
“By taking this next step to activate the State Emergency Operations Center, we are making sure that our response is coordinated and that resources are available to impacted communities. We will continue to work with local officials and are prepared to offer the full weight of state resources to respond to the storm,” Whitmer said in a statement.
The city of Battle Creek has declared a snow emergency effective 10 p.m. Thursday, the city said in a Wednesday release. During a snow emergency, residents cannot park on the street. Police will tow vehicles if they are unable to contact the registered owner, the city said.
Some West Michigan schools have canceled school for Friday. Find a list of closings and delays here.
The snowstorm has created some beautiful views across West Michigan:
Send your winter storm pictures to firstname.lastname@example.org.
— News 8’s Madalyn Buursma contributed to this report.