December, 2011

Monday 12/26

December 26th, 2011 at 3:03 am by under Bill's Blog, Weather

  Quick note:  The NWS afternoon discussion looks pretty good to me.   Not much snow here, and with temperatures at or above freezing, most main roads will just be wet.  The time when we could see slick spots may be Tuesday evening as temperatures fall below freezing.    Watch me on the news tonight. Click to enlarge the graphic.  This is snow cover across the Lower 48 states on Christmas morning, or who had a White Christmas.  30.2% of the Lower 48 states had a snow cover Christmas morning.  This compared to 50.2% in 2010 and 63% in 2009.  The last years with less snow than this year were 2006 and 2005.  Most of West Michigan had a trace of snow on the ground (less than 1/2″).  The sites in West Michigan reporting an inch of snow on the ground (or rounded up to an inch) were Grandville (Bill Marino of the NWS reported this, I believe), 3 NW Walker, White Cloud and Scottville.  If you had an inch of snow on the ground Christmas morning, leave a comment and let us know.  Other snow depths Christmas morning:  2″ Sault Ste. Marie, 3″ Gaylord, E. Jordan, Mancelona and Detour Village, 5″ near Beulah, Ironwood, Newberry and the Marquette NWS.  Ahmeek had 6″ on the ground, 7″ at Mohawk in the Keweenaw and 8″ at Grand Marais and Twin Lakes (where they report 37.5″ of snow for the month of December so far).  In the Lower 48 states, the warmest temperature on Christmas Day was 85 at Fort Myers FL (Key West had a morning low temperature of 74) and the coolest was -15 at Clayton Lake, ME and it was a chilly 14 at Marfa, Texas (colder than it has been in G.R. this month).  The cold is starting to build up in Alaska again.  Fairbanks was down to -27 Christmas morning and Nuiqsut had a frosty -37.  Valdez is up to 53″ of snow on the ground and Kotzebue has 50″ (with a high of -9 on Christmas Day).  Here’s snow cover in the N. Hemisphere…lots of snow in Russia/Canada…spotty across the U.S. and Western Europe.   The South got some much needed rain:  2.06″ Shreveport LA, 1.54″ Meridian MS, 1.53″ Jasper TX, 0.92″ at Houston.   We’ve gained one minute of daylight since the Winter Solstice on the 22nd…whoopee.   Today will be the 16th day this month that the temperature has hit 40 or better in G.R.!   It did not reach 40 during the first 29 days of December last year.    Extras:  You’ve heard of storm-chasing…how about aurora chasing101 mph wind gusts in Scotland and a tropical storm is threatening Australia.  MODEL DATA:   The 00Z run of the GFS gives G.R. only 0.05″ of precipitation around daybreak Tuesday, another 0.06″ Thursday PM and another 0.10″ Friday and Friday night.   That would be a mix of rain and snow.  The European gives G.R. a healthier 0.34″ Tues. PM with 850 mb temps. of -3 to -4, so that could be mostly snow.   Then 0.03″ on Thursday (rain or mix?), and .27″ Friday night/Sat. AM…maybe a mix to snow.   The models show a shot of light snow then lake-effect snow with some colder air on Mon. 1/2 and a pretty windy and cold day.   I’ll add more when the model data gets in during the early afternoon, so check back.   In the meantime, check the Reindeer CamSnowman Cam (look for deer), Santa Cam,  the South Pole, and Caribbean webcams.

Christmas Day!

December 25th, 2011 at 12:11 am by under Bill's Blog, Weather

  It’s midnight – the start of Christmas Day as I write this.  The grandkids went to sleep around 10 PM and we went to work.  It’s been a tradition in our family for decades to string yarn, starting at the person’s stocking by the fireplace.  We string the yarn all over the house…low for the little kids and sometimes high up for the big kids.   The yarn goes all over the house.   In past years we’ve gone down the basement and on one green Christmas out into the back yard.  Then we tie little presents on the yarn with clothes pins or tape.   Every person gets a different color yarn.  You should see our house!   Yarn strung everywhere!   Hanging from the yarn are dollar bills, gift cards, candy canes, all kinds of stuff.  We put the Christmas tree out on the unheated porch (so the cat wouldn’t get into it).  Daughter 1 (Julie) is up from Chicago.  Daughter 3 is down from Traverse City/Benzie.  Daughter 2 and Grandma are coming Christmas morning.  We’ll go to 10 AM church and then open presents and eat.  The rule has been…the kids can dig through their stocking and follow their yarn, but presents wait until we are all together, dad is awake and it’s after church.  Since I am usually up late, sometimes we haven’t opened gifts until noon.  We have special food, special drink, the house is full of people.  We have one special guest coming later today.  We have in the past opened our home to someone (or ones) who had no place to go on Christmas Day.   I have to do the evening shift, so watch me on TV this evening for the rest of year forecast.   It’s good travel weather.   Enjoy this wonderful day of celebration.

Christmas Eve

December 24th, 2011 at 3:05 am by under Bill's Blog, Weather

  Snow falling Friday evening – picture from Janet on ReportIt (click to enlarge).   Well, at least parts of the area are getting a white Christmas Eve!   Snowfall Friday evening totaled a trace in many areas south of I-94 to as much as 2 1/2 inches in northern Kent Co.  The National Weather Service had a little over an inch.  I had a final total of 1.4″ downtown on the car hoods and 1.5″ here at home.  Thanks to the many snow totals taken and reported as comments here on the blog.   I’ve been up looking at the latest model data.  No big storms during the coming week.  The NAM model gives us a dusting of snow around 5 AM Tuesday.  The GFS gives us a few hundredths of a rain/snow mix.  The European model has a few flurries on Sunday (more north of G.R. than south) and then 0.13″ Tuesday, which if all snow could be an inch or two.  So, it’s a little stronger with the Tuesday AM system – but still not a big storm…though there could be a few slick spots early Tuesday.  The GFS would give G.R. about an inch of snow next Thursday, another inch on 1/5 and maybe 1-2″ on the 9th – it again has temperatures in a narrow range from low-mid 20s to low 40s.  The European (which I saw to 7 days) would have rain on 12/30-31 with temperatures Friday reaching the mid 40s.   In any case…go with warmer than average temperatures and no sign of any big storms.  Joe Bastardi made an interesting comment.  He said the 3 years that most closely fit our current pattern were all El Nino years (we have La Nina now!).  We do have split flow, like El Nino with the northern jet across Canada blocking the Arctic Air and keeping the flow west to east across the mainland U.S.  I’ve remarked before how this is charting new territory…we haven’t seen this with a La Nina before.  If anyone has some thoughts, I’m open to hear them.  The years I’ve looked at do have snow picking up in Feb./March – but still well below normal for the winter.   Happy Christmas Eve.  Hope Santa is good to you!

Lake Michigan Water Level

December 24th, 2011 at 2:51 am by under Bill's Blog, Weather

  Click the pic. to enlarge – from Ted Swoboda.  The water level of Lake Michigan/Huron is down one inch in the last month (the lake level usually goes down from late summer to early March).  The lake is now 7 inches above the level of one year ago, but still 13″ below the century average level.  Rivers have above average flow in our area right now.  Lake Superior is down 4″ in the last month (that’s a relatively big drop in a month) and is now even with the level of last year.  Lake Superior is 14″ below the century average.  It’s a different story for Lake Erie, which is up 9″ in the last month and is now 22″ above the level of one year ago and 18″ above the century average.   There is concern that a strong west-southwest or east-northeast wind could pile water at the end of the lake and cause significant beach erosion and flooding.   Lake Erie is expected to drop several inches in the next month.  Lake Ontario is up 4″ in the last month and is 4″ above the level of one year ago.  Lake Ontario is 4″ above the century average.   Check river levels in West Michigan here.  The Grand River in Grand Rapids is just about at double average flow for 12/24.

Friday PM

December 23rd, 2011 at 11:44 am by under Bill's Blog, Weather

6:10 PM.  We’re in the midst of the news, so this will be short.  Already enough snow for a few slick spots in N. Muskegon, Oceana and western Newaygo Counties.  Light snow this evening.  Most will see a trace to an inch, enough for a few slick spots.  A little extra boost from the lake may make for some 1-3″ totals in parts of N. Muskegon, W. Newaygo, Oceana, Mason and Manistee Counties.  The snow will end late tonight and we’ll be partly sunny and mid-upper 30s tomorrow afternoon.  More earthquakes in Christchurch, New Zealand today.  Two were magnitude 5.8.  Dozens of people were injured, power out to 26,000, sinkholes opening up on roads.   The new 12Z data is just starting to trickle in.  An upper level disturbance passes over tonight and that may touch off some scattered snow showers.  It’s not impossible it could cause an icy spot.  Sunday midday another weak front could bring a brief snow shower.  We remain in “split flow”, with the action mainly well north and south of us.  The upper level flow remains “zonal” and the Arctic air just can’t make any progress into the Lower 48 states.  That means virtually no lake-effect snow.  Without snow cover you are generally about 5-7 degrees warmer than with a decent snow cover.   It’s been cool enough at night for ski areas to make some snow.  I see Cannonsburg is open with limited skiing.  For Grand Rapids, it’s the 4th least amount of snow at this point in winter, and for Muskegon it’s the 3rd lowest.  There is a Winter Weather Advisory through tonight for several inches of snow in Mackinac and Luce Counties.   Here’s more on the lack of snow in N. Lower Michigan.  Season snowfall:  Muskegon 1.0″, Grand Rapids 2.4″, Bloomingdale (Van Buren Co.) 4.5″, Grand Ledge 8.9″, Kalamazoo (WMU) 9.7″, Lansing 10.1″, Brooklyn (Jackson Co.) 12.4″.   The most snow on the ground in Michigan is at Grand Marais where they have 5 1/2″ of new snow and 10″ on the ground.  Other snow depths:  4″ Newberry, 6″ Marquette Airport (less in town), 3″ Ironwood.  Traverse City and Gaylord report 2″ on the ground and East Jordan picked up 2 1/2″ of snow (with a couple cracks of thunder!) Thursday evening and they have 4″ on the ground.   Webcams (daytime):  Boyne Mt., Snowman cam from Gaylord (day or night, it’s lit), Spyglass Condos at the Holland Beach, the Reindeer Cam (Santa feeds them at 10 AM and 5 PM), Twin Lakes Snowman Cam (U.P.), webcams from WOOD-TV (dozens of them, statewide).    Here’s where you can track Santa.  You can look for Santa here (Finland).  More webcams (esp. U.P.) here.   The state with the snowiest weather today appears to be New Mexico with up to 17″ reported!  Look at how much snow fell from that storm in Colorado (up to 3 feet!).

New in theaters/on DVD 12-23-11 Merry Christmas!

December 23rd, 2011 at 8:00 am by under Entertainment

This week we get a bunch of new releases that hold through the New Year in three seperate release days. Its a Christmas present for West Michigan movie fans to unwrap: 7 movies new to theaters this holiday season…

(Click here for video version from EightWest segment 12-23-11)
(Last week’s video version includes reviews of “Young Adult” and “Mission: Impossible 4″)
New in theaters (Wednesday 12/21): ”The Adventures of Tin Tin”, “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol” (now in all theaters), “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”
New in theaters (Friday 12/23): ”We Bought A Zoo”, “My Week with Marilyn” (limited)
New in theaters (Sunday 12/25): “War Horse”, “The Darkest Hour”
Moving to Woodland Mall this week ($4.00 shows):
“Puss in Boots”, “Immortals”, “Jack and Jill”
Playing in limited release in Grand Rapids market:
“The Descendants” at Celebration! North, Celebration! Rivertown, Celebration! Crossroads, and Rave CityPlace 14,
“Machine Gun Preacher” at Celebration! Woodland,
“The Guard” at Celebration! Woodland,
“Like Crazy” at The Harbor Theater in Muskegon,
“Courageous” at Celebration! Woodland
Coming to theaters in 2 weeks (Friday 1/6/11):  “The Devil Inside”
New this week on DVD (Tuesday 12/20): ”Colombiana”, “Dolphin Tale”, “Midnight in Paris”, “Straw Dogs”, “Warrior”, “Burke and Hare” (limited), “Catch .44″ (limited), “Margin Call” (limited), “Blackthorn” (straight-to-DVD)
Next week on DVD (Tuesday 12/27): ”Apollo 18″, “Final Destination 5″, “The First Grader”, “Brighton Rock” (limited), “A Good Old Fashioned Orgy” (limited), “Love Crime” (limited), “The Pool Boys” (limited), “Hostel: Part III” (straight-to-video), “The Tunnel” (straight-to-video)
Coming to DVD in March, 2012: “Playback” (*filmed in West Michigan)

Review: “War Horse” is the most hopeful war movie ever

December 23rd, 2011 at 7:50 am by under Entertainment

 War movies are almost always epic… in scale and length, and while “War Horse” tries to focus on a smaller piece of this World War I story… it felt every bit of its 2 hours and 26 minute running time.

Often with these kind of movies, you get swept up in the story and the adventure or the characters and all of the sudden two hours later the movie is over and its length wasn’t as noticeable.  With a little editing, this one could have still had its epic feel with a runtime closer to 2 hours.

This story, based on a novel (that was even a broadway play), “War Horse” is the most hopeful war movie I’ve ever seen, its like “Old Yeller” meets “Saving Private Ryan”… but that’s not neccessarily a compliment.

"War Horse" poster courtesy DreamWorks

 (My spoiler-free review)

Joey is the horse we follow through this journey, and his owner is Albert.  They have a bond that forms early in the movie and is unshakeable, despite the struggles they go through during World War I.  While its no “Black Stallion”, it is a very good horse movie – that romanticizes the horse as well as the connection between Joey and Albert.

The cinematography is great and it looks great and feels like we are in the time period.  It even feels a  little like movies of a time gone by – very wholesome and positive overall, the way the characters talk and act is similiar to a lot of Disney movies back in the 1970s and early 1980s.

The acting is good, but this movie is more about the performance of Joey, than any of the human actors… and the story of Joey takes us from the brink or World War I to the end of the fighting.  So yes, there’s a lot of ground to cover and we get that Joey is a special horse, even amoung the other horses “enlisted” into the British Army to help carry officers and pull artilery.  While its sweet in the midst of the tragedy of war, and it feels and looks epic, it may also tug at your emotions… but some of those tugs are blatantly obvious, calculated, and sometimes forced and none of the cast of characters never reached a level of full interest for me.  I was watching a story that never really had me completely emotionally invested in any of the characters.

Steven Spielberg assembles a talented horse, a solid cast, and makes a good looking movie, complimented by a stirring and hopeful score by the legendary John Williams.  He even gets us to feel like we are in World War I era Europe.    But (more…)

Review: “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” is better than original but just as uneasy

December 22nd, 2011 at 11:22 pm by under Entertainment

 Remaking a classic movie is difficult, most of the time the remake/reboot falls flat or leaves fans of the original disappointed… we’ve seen it countless times.

Now try remaking an international phenomenon that’s only a few years old - with a storyline that only gives you a limited ability to creatively change things.  Director David Fincher has done that with “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” … and he’s done it like a champ.

Warning: “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” (2011) is not for kids or the faint of heart, its rated R – what I like to call a “hard R” because of things that make it borderline NC-17.  The MPAA lists the reason for GWTDT’s “R” as: “brutal violent content including sexual assault and torture, strong sexuality, graphic nudity, and language”.

"The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" poster courtesy Sony

 (My spoiler-free review)

“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” is not a movie easily forgotten… its something that can happen when you see a lot of movies.   But this is not like a lot of other movies, “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” really stays with you, its intense, and makes the audience VERY uneasy.   While many movies have us watching and observing from the comfort of our theater seats or couches, this thriller pulls you right in and forces you to do more than just sit there passively.  If you can get through it, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” will have you squirming in your seat in one seat and then reel you back in trying to help Lisbeth and Mikael looking for clues to solve the mystery presented to us.

‘Lisbeth Sallander’ is the spikey-haired, body piercing, and tattooed hacker/investigator played by Rooney Mara, who immerses herself in this character that seemed to only belong to Noomi Rapace (in original 2009 Swedish version).  Mara’s ‘Lisbeth’ is both riveting and callous, but sweet and fragile … through her life experiences she becomes someone the audience has to root for, despite her rough exterior. 

Daniel Craig’s ‘Mikael Blomkvist’ is a disgraced journalist whose appearance seems to be the polar opposite of Lisbeth, but he’s not without baggage of his own.  In addition to Craig’s rugged portrayal of this investigative reporter, we also get a little more of the father-daughter relationship and thanks to Craig’s acting, both in word and action tell more about this character than we ever got from the original.   Whether or not this movie gets a lot of critical praise or box office success, these new actors are so forever entrenched as these characters, its hard to think that the second and third books of the trilogy won’t be continued on the big screen… because it does leave you wanting to learn what happens next with the characters.

Hunting down perverse monsters who target women is not easy subject matter.  So if you’ve read the international best selling Stieg Larsson novel or saw the 2009 movie, you know the uneasy and uncomfortable scenes I’m talking about (see MPAA rating above) - something most audiences need to be prepared for going in. (more…)

White Christmas…in Hawaii?

December 22nd, 2011 at 9:51 pm by under Bill's Blog, Weather

   The forecast is a possible 1-2″ of snow…for parts of HAWAII!  It’s for the highest mountains, but when it might be possible to have a White Christmas in Hawaii but not most of Michigan?  Here in Michigan, it’s been pretty gloomy…only 5% of possible sunshine over the past 10 days.  Here’s a look at snow cover in North AmericaSevere thunderstorms in the South produced a tornado at Shelby AL and 52 reports of wind damage, including building damage at Jennings, LA.  Here’s storm damage pictures from Georgia, where two people were injured.   Also, a strong 5.8 magnitude earthquake has hit Christchurch, New Zealand.  At least one injury was reported, along with power outages.  The storm caused damage and left up to two feet of water in the Fruit of the Loom building.  Christchurch was hit by a powerful earthquake last February.  That quake resulted in 182 fatalities.  Note the dust cloud in the picture here where rocks fell off a cliff into the ocean.  There was a 5.3 magnitude aftershock.   Some warm high temperatures on Thurs:  70 Norfolk VA, 78 Wilmington NC, 82 Savannah, 85 Fort Myers.  Some cool high temperatures on Thurs:  4 Yellowstone Natl. Park, 14 Douglas WY, 29 Amarillo TX, 56 Tucson, 38 Seattle, 25 Las Vegas NM.   And…look at the cool, lenticular clouds in England.   Finally, the clean-up continues after severe flooding from a tropical storm in the Philippines.  QUICK FORECAST UPDATE:  The 00Z run of the GFS has only 0.18″ precipitation for us in the next 16 days!  That’s all!  And it has an extremely narrow temperature range of 39 to 27!   I don’t think it’ll be that narrow, and it’ll probably miss any lake-effect snow…but that is just extraordinary to see those kind of numbers in Michigan in winter.  The GFS would bring a dusting of snow Friday night.  The European would have a 7-day temperature spread of low 40s Monday to low 20s Weds. morning.  It shows 1/2″ of snow here Friday night, another 1/2″ Tuesday and maybe an inch Thursday.  Both models hint at maybe 1-3″ about 1/2, but that’s too far out to put much stock in.  The FIM model is in to next Tues. AM and doesn’t show much…a dusting Friday night with maybe 1-3″ across northern Michigan…maybe a few flakes 12/25 PM and again on the 29th.

Slick Roads SE of G.R. early tonight

December 22nd, 2011 at 7:14 pm by under Bill's Blog, Weather

Local  UPDATE:   A mix of light rain and snow will gradually change to all light snow, then taper off to scattered flurries early tonight.  Roads will have slippery spots SE of G.R.   It’s still a warm weather map for the eastern U.S. Here’s radar and links: current Grand Rapids NWS radar, Regional Radar, GRR Zone Forecasts, lightning for our area and national lightning data. Here’s the latest visible satellite loop, current U.S. severe t-storm and tornado watches, current meso-discussions, and today’s storm reports from SPC. Here’s Storm total rainfall, Milwaukee radar, Chicago radar, current Michigan conditions, and the National warning/watch/advisory map. You can checkout the latest Grand Rapids NWS discussion, the Northern Indiana NWS discussion (includes the Michigan Counties that border Indiana), the discussion for Northern Lower Michigan, and Eastern Lower Michigan. Here’s a surface weather map, infrared satellite loop (day or nighttime). To report hail, strong winds or other severe weather to Storm Team 8, call 1-800-8WOODTV. Side note – I went to the Grand Rapids Symphony Pops Concert Friday night…very enjoyable show. This evening we have our Christmas celebration with the in-laws and Sunday we’ll be down to see daughter 1 in Chicago. Monday is back to work.