Bill Steffen

Winter Weather Advisory – Possible Freezing Rain

January 28th, 2015 at 3:59 am by under Bill's Blog, Weather

advisory  The National Weather Service has issued a Winter Weather Advisory for later tonight into Thursday.  The Advisory covers much of the area and will be in effect from 1 am to 4 pm Thursday afternoon.  It’ll be dry today and this evening…so you should be OK if you have plans this evening.  The Thursday morning commute could be tricky with a combination of light (not heavy) freezing rain or drizzle, sleet and maybe some wet snow mixed in.  The precipitation may eventually change over to all snow before it ends, especially north of I-96.  The models are only forecasting about 1/10th of an inch of precipitation, but it doesn’t take much freezing rain to cause some traffic headaches.  My microcast had the precip. starting around midnight-1 am up in Oceana Co. and spreading SE thru the early morning before daybreak.

We’re also going to get a long-duration period of light snow starting later Saturday night thru Sunday with snow showers into at least Monday if not Tuesday.  Just the duration of the event suggests several inches could accumulate…probably more in favorable WNW to NW lake-effect areas.  It also looks pretty chilly Monday and Tuesday with temps. a good 10 to even 15 degrees cooler than average.  Here’s the latest NWS GRR discussion.   I’m up for WHTC radio (1450 am) at around 7:10 am.  You can also get the updated forecast from Storm Team 8 on WOOD (1300 am and 106.9 fm) and on Star 105.7 fm.

The NWS Blizzard Forecast in the East

January 28th, 2015 at 3:40 am by under Bill's Blog, Weather

Near blizzard conditions east   Click on the image to enlarge.  This graphic from Greg Carbin at SPC shows where near-blizzard conditions occurred and for how long.  The NWS forecast for the East Coast Storm was very good for much of Long Island, E CT, RI Central and Eastern MA, SE NH and (I haven’t checked numbers and winds here) and E Maine.  They also hit their hurricane force winds out on Nantucket (gust to 78 mph reported).  They were too strong with their forecast in the NYC area and especially down thru New Jersey into Philadelphia.

In the old days, there were essentially two models and they only went out 48-hours.  We had the Barotropic and the LFM (Limited Fine Mesh).  The models didn’t handle mountains (elevation), the Great Lakes or snow cover.  We knew the basic physics of the models and they remained unchanged for a long time, so we learned their biases (like the Barotropic racing closed upper lows across the U.S. in late spring…we knew the model would be too fast).

Today, we have better models and the models go out for many days and even weeks.  Sometimes the physics of the models is tweaked and just when you get used to one model, it behaves a little differently.  There are dozens of models.  I look at a lot of models.  Each day I check the NAM, GFS and FIM (the U.S. models), the Canadian, The European, and the Japanese model…some days other models.  I check ensembles.  I’m an old guy that still likes to print out data and have it spread out in front of me.

The National Weather Service is MUCH better now than it was when I started 40 years ago (and that’s taking nothing away from those who worked their 40 years ago).  We used to forecast for 2 days…now we go out 8 days – that’s the biggest difference in the daily forecast.  I don’t think the NWS needed to apologize for their East Coast storm forecast.  This is not an exact science and they did their best with this forecast.  No one was negligent that I know of, and I’m sure that the meteorologists put in long hours and extra effort on this storm.  For much of the area, including the area impacted, the NWS had out a very good forecast, allowing both families and government to plan for the storm.   Personally, I’d rather they err a little on the strong side than the weak side with a storm like that.  NYC did get about 6-11″ of new snow, plus drifting.  It was not a no-storm, it was just not as much snow as was forecast.

Remember the tone of the media is important.  If the news anchor or weather anchor is jumping up and down, panting and screaming “JUNO, JUNO!!” it can give a different impression.  The NWS has no control over that.  The national media is giving much more airtime to weather events than it did even 10 years ago.  In an earlier thread, I wrote that I personally thought this wouldn’t quite as big a deal for NJ and NYC., but I was spending more time on the Michigan weather than what was going on out east, so that was a little more educated guess than detailed model analysis at that point.  The greatest impact was E. Long Island, R. Island, Eastern and Central Massachusetts and the offshore islands.  There, the NWS forecast was very good and both the forecasts and the response from politicians looked very good to me.  I especially liked the tone of the governor of Massachusetts.  Maybe he’s just that laid-back, but he was matter-of-fact and not filled with breathless angst.

The pattern suggests that we will have more significant storms to deal with in the coming weeks…on the East Coast for sure and I think we’re headed back toward a snowier pattern here in the Great Lakes as well.  February is going to be an interesting month, weatherwise.  The forecasts won’t be perfect, but I hope they are generally useful to you as you plan your daily tasks and fun.  Thanks as always for checkin’ into Bill’s Blog.

January 27th, 2015 at 5:56 pm by under Bill's Blog, Weather

modis lake michigan   modis lake huron  modis lake ontario Here’s the afternoon MODIS satellite pictures for Lake Michigan, Lake Huron and Lake Ontario.     As I write this, we have 37.8% ice on the Great Lakes.  Lake Michigan has a 21% ice coverLake Superior is up to 25% ice coverLake Huron is up to 50% ice coverLake Erie has the greatest percentage ice cover at 85%Lake Ontario is at 24%.

Some Sunshine!

January 27th, 2015 at 8:53 am by under Bill's Blog, Weather

muskegon glerl    muskegon glerl 2 Here’s a couple of early morning pics. from the Muskegon GLERL camera (from NOAA Coastwatch).  The first looks west.  You can see quite a bit of ice beyond the breakwater and you can see the low clouds over the lake, which will clear to the south as the morning goes on.  The 2nd pic. looks east down the channel, where there is open water.  In the distance you can see some clouds on the horizon….a combination of lake-effect low clouds off Lake Huron and the west edge of the clouds from the East Coast snowstorm.   West Michigan should see a lot of sunshine today, which is most welcome.  Here’s a satellite pic.  G.R. is 3.5 deg. colder than average for January with only one high temp. above 40 deg. (we had 4 days above 40 amid a very cold Jan. last year).  Snowfall is 22.7″ for G.R., a little above average, thought we’ve had only 2.5″ in the last 15 days.  It’s not that it hasn’t been cold enough for snow, it’s just that it’s been a very dry pattern.  Not including today, we’ve had only 16% sunshine this month and only one day over 65% sunshine.

We’ll have to watch the system Weds. night/Thurs.  That could be a mix to snow.  The mix may very well include a period of freezing rain for a narrow band across S. Lower Michigan.  So, travel Thurs. am will not be the best.  Snow is likely with the Arctic push Sat. PM into Sunday.  The GFS-plot gives us several inches, followed by low temps. near zero for Mon. and Tues. mornings.  I’ve already told the groundhog to fax in the prediction – too cold to come out of the burrow.

As of 1 pm Tues. – Boston has had 20.8″ of new snow….2″ shy of the Jan. record. There are 3 reported totals of 30″.   Here’s the number of hours in “near blizzard conditions.   The forecast snow amounts were way too high over most of NJ, too high in NYC (they got 6-11″ plus drifting – they did get a decent storm) and pretty much right on in E. Long Island, RI, MA, NH.  There  few  perfect forecasts and it’s probably best to err on the high side than on the low side.  Technology isn’t at the point to give us perfect forecasts.  I think there will be too much blame directed at the NWS.  You won’t hear about the large geographic area where the forecast was right on and you have to realize that forecasting is not going to be perfect for all areas in a storm like this.

Nice sun pillar this morning looking east from G.R.  Boston’s Fenway Park in the snowstorm this morning.  Here’s Long Island (worse to the east of where this pic. was taken).  Not the snow is ending here.  Report coming in that Tom Brady is responsible for deflating snow amounts in NYC.Report coming in that Tom Brady is responsible for deflating snow amounts in NYC.  They’ll get their 30″ west of Boston.  Drifts there already 4 – 6 feet.  Makes it tough to walk the dogHere’s BostonCape Cod getting buriedHeavy snow still falling in SE NH.   Interesting ice formation in Spain.   Mail delivery canceled Tuesday from the NJ shore to Maine’s Downeast region.   Extreme cold in Alaska, 50 below zero in Bettles.

East Coast Blizzard

January 26th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by under Bill's Blog, News, Weather

blizzard watch  At 8 am -   The wind at the airport on Nantucket Island gusted to 78 mph overnight!   Much of the island is without power.   Wind gusts hit 74 mph at Aquinnah MA and 70 mph at Sagmore MA.  Also, 65 mph gust recorded in Charlestown, RI.    The peak wind gust in NYC has been 38 mph. We have not reached blizzard criteria in NYC or New Jersey.  The heaviest snowfall so far is 25″ at Worcester MA.  Boston has had 15″ and NYC reports 11″ at LaGuardia and 8″ at Central Park (hard to measure with the wind and drifting).  They’ve had gusts to 60 mph and up to 25″ of snow on Long Island around Mattituck. Islip reports 21″ of new snow.  Heaviest snow zeroed in on Long Island and  SE MA.   There was one report of thundersnow in SE Mass.    Here’s snow totals  from the New York City/Long Island area, the Boston area and current conditions in the East.   I’m on the LOW side of the snowfall totals for NYC….so, a pretty decent storm, but NOT NEAR the worst storm ever for NYC – it’ll be a little stronger from Long Island to the the MA coast up to the north into SE ME.   The light red color on the map here is the Blizzard Warning for coastal NJ, NY, CT, RI, MA, NH and ME – including New York City and Boston.  It’s from Monday evening through Tuesday PM for 12-30″ of snow plus wind gusts up to 70 mph (mainly at the coast or over the open water).

Here’s the official NWS definition of a blizzard:  “A BLIZZARD WATCH MEANS THERE IS A POTENTIAL FOR CONSIDERABLE FALLING AND/OR BLOWING SNOW WITH SUSTAINED WINDS OR FREQUENT GUSTS OVER 35 MPH AND VISIBILITIES BELOW 1/4 MILE FOR AT LEAST 3 HOURS.”  Note that it’s based on wind and visibility and not a specific amount of snow falling.  You can have a blizzard with a snowfall of one inch and not have a snowstorm with a snowfall of three feet.   NWS says “ALL UNNECESSARY TRAVEL IS DISCOURAGED BEGINNING MONDAY AFTERNOON…LIFE-THREATENING CONDITIONS AND EXTREMELY DANGEROUS TRAVEL DUE TO HEAVY SNOWFALL AND STRONG WINDS…WITH WHITEOUT CONDITIONS. SECONDARY AND TERTIARY ROADS MAY BECOME IMPASSABLE. STRONG WINDS MAY DOWN POWER LINES AND TREE LIMBS.”   Here’s a NWS PowerPoint on the coming storm.  Flurries down to N. Georgia.   Here’s New York City radar.    There’s a Hurricane Force Wind Warning for gusts to 70 knots (80 mph) and 25 foot waves.   Here’s a southern New England weather map and some current weather observations.  United Airlines cancels all Tuesday flights at Newark, JFK, LaGuardia, Boston and Philadelphia.  Cold shot follows blizzard.   This storm will not be quite the catastrophe as the Blizzard of 1888.  NYC has 1,806 plows and more than 126,000 tons of salt.  I hope Bill Nye reads this link.


Elsewhere…rain showers for much of Southern California.  You can follow on SW radar.  Gust to 59 mph from severe t-storm in Tuscaloosa AL.  Double rainbow in Jasper AL.   Sunshine and 40 below zero at Fairbanks (low sun angle near noon).

The early Monday overnight GFS-plot shows 0.31″ of precipitation for G.R. (mainly or all snow) for Weds. night/Thurs. AM and another 0.09″ for Sat. PM/night (all snow).  The GFS (car) gives G.R. 3.3″ of snow mainly Weds. night.   The European isn’t in yet…and I’m tired and hitting the sack – more in the AM.   Pretty cold start to this Monday…some single figures and below zero temps. (mainly northern Lower MI) this morning.

The Blizzard of Jan. 26, 1978

January 26th, 2015 at 1:29 am by under Bill's Blog, Weather

<–click map to enlarge. Today is Blizzard Anniversary Day (37th anniversary of the Blizzard of ’78 and 48th anniversary of the Blizzard of ’67 – see thread below). The Blizzard of 1978 ranks as the #1 snowstorm ever for Grand Rapids and much of Lower Michigan, Indiana and Ohio. The barometer reading of 28.28″ in Cleveland still ranks as the lowest non-hurricane barometer reading in U.S. history. Sarnia, Ontario reported a barometer of 28.21″ and Grand Rapids also set a record barometer reading 28.68″. Grand Rapids had 15″ of snow in about 15 hours (19.2 total). Muskegon picked up 52″ of snow in 4 days. The Traverse City area had up to 28″. Houghton Lake and Indianapolis had over 15″ of snow and Lansing recorded over 19″. South Bend recorded a four-day total of 36″. Wind gusts of 42 mph blew the snow off roofs (a good thing). Wind gusts in Ohio topped 80 mph. The storm hit on a Wednesday Night, and many schools didn’t reopen until the following Monday. The heavy snow started shortly after 10 PM on 1/25. I measured a snow drift 14-feet high. Drifts in Ohio reached 20-feet. The entire Ohio turnpike was closed as was most of I-75 through Lower Michigan and Ohio. All air and rail service came to a halt. I was at the TV station for 3 days without leaving. One news anchor came to work on a snowmobile. For you weather junkies…this storm deepened 40 millibars in 24-hours – we call that “bombogenesis”. Seventy deaths were blamed on the storm, including 51 in Ohio. At least 22 people in Ohio died outside while struggling through the blizzard. Another 13 people were found dead in stuck cars, and 13 died in unheated homes. The National Guard were called out in Michigan and Ohio and the University of Michigan closed for the first time in 140 years. Over 125.000 vehicles were abandoned in the storm. It took 3 to 5 days to move the abandoned cars and open the expressways. After this, we had the coldest February ever in G.R. and the 5th coldest March. Snow piles from the storm lingered into April. Read more about the storm here in Michigan, in Ohio, cool pictures and more here. Here’s the governor of Ohio’s voice with a little film. Here’s some eyewitness accounts from West Michigan and video of a newscast from Cleveland. Mark sent a link to pics. from Breckenridge. Here’s write-up on the storm from the NWS in Detroit. Leave a comment if you have a memory of the big storm. Here’s Local Snowfall Amounts from the GRR NWS. This thread has been moved up from last year. Also, here’s TIME MAGAZINE’S top ten blizzards of all time. Here’s a nice YouTube video of storm pics.

Blizzard of Jan. 26, 1967

January 26th, 2015 at 1:25 am by under Bill's Blog, Weather

<–abandoned cars and buses on Lake Shore Drive in downtown Chicago. I was in high school (New Trier East) and living in Wilmette, Illinois during the blizzard of ’67. The storm hit on Jan. 26, 1967. Outside of the snow, my best memory is some kid driving around the high school in the blizzard with his convertible top down and everyone pelting him with snowballs, filling the convertible with snow. A week before the storm, the temperature fell to -8 in Chicago. Then, two days before the big snow, the temperature hit 65.  At 9 PM on 1/24, it was still 60 degrees and we were under a severe t-storm watch! I remember I was at a meeting of the St. Joseph teen club and I wanted to be outside watching the storm come through. Winds hit 48 mph at Midway Airport, funnel clouds were sighted and one person was killed (four injured) when winds blew down a wall at a construction site. I remember measuring 29″ of new snow in Wilmette (a little boost from Lake Michigan) along with 6-foot drifts. An estimated 50,000 cars and 1100 buses were abandoned in the storm. A total of 273 people were arrested for looting on the south and near-west sides of the city. Officially, Chicago had 23″ of snow in 29 hours. Here’s home movies after the storm, and more video. That storm also hit West Michigan with very heavy snow, severe drifting and of course, lots of school closings.   More on the Blizzard of ’67 from the Chicago Tribune.


January 24th, 2015 at 7:20 pm by under Bill's Blog, Weather

    The snow is all south of I-94, with the excepting of some lake-effect snow coming off Lake Huron with a northeast wind near Oscoda.  The temperature has dropped from the mid 30s at midnight to the low 20s now (wind chill at 3 am in G.R. down to +8).  I’m starting to look at weather data and will start a thread for the East Coast Blizzard soon.   If you’re missing Sunday football…the Pro-Bowl is at 8 pm tonight on ESPN from Arizona (not Hawaii).  It’s strange trying to put a team together with just a few practices against a team that you have no video of.  With nothing much on the line, it’s basically just “don’t get hurt” for the players.   Happy Sunday!

Here’s Grand Rapids radar and Northern Michigan radar, NAM model 3-day snowfall forecast and GFS model 5-day snowfall forecast (totals increased on the Sat. overnight model run). Storm Total Snowfall will show the heaviest snow and Milwaukee looping radar. Regional radar and the Updated GRR NWS Short Term Discussion. More links: Grand Rapids radar, Northern Indian radar, Chicago radar, Detroit radar and Milwaukee radar. Here’s College of DuPage Radar Map (pick any radar in the U.S.), College of DuPage Grand Rapids radar, the West Michigan Lightning Tracker, National Lightning Tracker, the local warning/advisory map and the National warning/watch/advisory map, a surface weather 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 the Spyglass Condos Weather Station the S. Haven GLERL station, the Muskegon GLERL station, the Grand Haven Steelheaders webcam and weather station, and the weather station at Holland State Park. Check out the Maranatha Webcam at Lake Michigan and links to webcams. Here’s the infrared satellite loop (night) and the visible satellite loop (daytime), Lake Michigan water temperatures (summer). Here’s recent storm reports from SW Michigan, Northern Michigan, NE Illinois, SE. Wisconsin, Upper Michigan and E. Michigan. Check out the wind and wave height at the South Mid-Lake Michigan Buoy (Apr. to Nov. only), the North Mid-Lake Michigan Buoy (Apr. to Nov. only), the buoy at Big Sable Point near Ludington and the weather station on the beach at St. Joseph. Here’s Michigan wind gusts from MesoWest, data from the MAWN agricultural weather stations and Weather Underground (data at the bottom from private weather stations). Here’s the Consumers Energy Power Outage Map

“Mr. Sunshine”, R.I.P.

January 24th, 2015 at 1:45 am by under Bill's Blog, Sports, Weather

ernie banks   Like Linus waiting for the Great Pumpkin, those of us who grew up on the north side of Chicago waited for the Chicago Cubs to win a World Series.  The Cubs last won a World Series in 1908, four years before Arizona and New Mexico became states!  Every summer we went to that pumpkin patch called the “Friendly Confines”.  My father first took me there in the late 50s.  I saw the ivy-covered outfield walls, the big scoreboard in center field and I saw the players I watched on TV.    Back then we watched Jack (“Hey! Hey! Ernie!) Brickhouse (who lived about a mile and a half from me in Wilmette – I used to ride my bicycle out past his house hoping to see him) and Vince Lloyd on our black-and-white TVs (and raced to Walgreens to test the tubes in the TV when the TV stopped working) and we listened to Jack Quinlan and Lou Boudreau on our new transistor radios.  Anyone remember this song(more…)

GFS overnight model run

January 23rd, 2015 at 4:33 am by under Bill's Blog, Weather

gfs_namer_066_1000_500_thick  gfs_namer_159_1000_500_thick gfs_namer_222_1000_500_thick Quick note…the European model would give G.R. maybe an inch of snow on Sunday, maybe 2″ at the Indiana border…a dusting maybe to Big Rapids…it’s also backing off on snow totals for Sunday. Here are 3 time steps of the GFS model overnight run.  The first is early afternoon Sunday, showing the snow over S. Lower Michigan (a little more snow south than north).  Next is Thursday morning.  The air is warmer here, so a mix of precipitation is likely.  The last map is Saturday evening, showing another batch of snow.   Then it gets pretty cold (496 thickness) for the middle of the following week.       The models have backed off on the snow for Sunday.  The NAM (Car.) now gives G.R. 1.8″, the GFS (Car.) not much of anything with only 1/2″ in Kalamazoo (snow goes mainly south of Michigan).  The Canadian model has also trended a little south.  At this point, I’m waiting on the European data.  It’s just me on Friday’s at work in the PM, so I may not post here again until after the evening news and after I get the internet done.  The GFS has a real Arctic shot for the 2nd to 5th.  Depending on wind direction, there could be some decent lake-effect snow and it looks like synoptic systems can come into play in early Feb.  Stay in your burrow Mr./Ms. Groundhog…just send a fax saying “six more weeks of winter”.