Record Ice on the Great Lakes

April 18th, 2014 at 1:06 am by under Bill's Blog, News, Weather

Lake Michigan Holland Ice Pier 4 12 14 Gary Brinks   Great Lakes Ice 4 16 14  Click on the images to enlarge.  The first picture was taken last weekend by Gary Brink at Holland, Michigan (you may remember the picture of the “tsunami cloud” that Gary took 2 years ago).  This is a very interesting pictures and something we’ve never seen before.   The sun is setting well north of due west as we are well past the Spring Equinox.  There has never been anywhere near this much ice on the Holland beach in mid-April.    The graph on the right shows the percent of the Great Lakes still covered with ice.  It’s more than double the highest percent recorded in mid-April during the satellite era.  The mid-week analysis by NOAA/Coastwatch showed a Great Lakes ice cover of 37.1%.   The 4/18 ice percentage shows 20.1% ice cover on Lake MichiganLake Superior still shows a 67.9% ice cover, Lake Huron is at 33.6%, Lake Erie (the southernmost Great Lake) is at 16.0% ice cover and Lake Ontario is has a 2.5% ice cover.

The latest Great Lakes water levels from the Army Corps of Engineers shows the following increases in Great Lakes water levels over the past month:  Lake Superior 2″, Lake Michigan 7″, Lake Huron 7″, Lake Erie 11″ and Lake Ontario 14″.   The year-to-year change in water levels of the Great Lakes:  Superior +13″, Lake Michigan +13″, Lake Huron +13″, Lake Erie +9″, Lake Ontario +5″.

The mid-week snowstorm brought heavy snow to much of Upper Michigan, with totals of 19″ at Laurium and Allouez, 18″ at S. Range, 17″ at Ontonagon and 15″ at Caspian and Mohawk.  Snow depths Thursday in the U.P.:  46″ Herman and Hoist Basin, 40″ Grand Marais and Mohawk, 31″ at Houghton, 28″ at Marquette (airport) and 12″ at S. Ste. Marie.  Ashland, Wisconsin reported 15″ of new snow and Rock Creek, Minnesota had 17″.

On Wednesday & Thursday in Vostok, Antarctica, the high was minus-97 F (minus-72 C).  Coldest Twins game ever.  No severe weather reports in the U.S. Wednesday or Thursday.  There have been more tornadoes in California this year (so far) than Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas COMBINED!

Gas Price Update

April 16th, 2014 at 8:24 pm by under Bill's Blog, News, Weather

gas prices

Here’s the latest from Ed:  “Tuesday, April 15, 2014, 9:00PM:  Despite the fact that ethanol prices are back under control, Monday’s price hike had the same flavor as other recent hikes.  That means that the price to retailers still has an ethanol premium included, or those red colored stations are pricing gas pretending that ethanol is still a problem and hoping we just live with it.  A clue that it may be the latter was the curious behavior in prices along Lake Michigan Drive the past two days.  While prices in Grand Rapids were popping to $3.89 everywhere, the Family Fare at Collindale held in the low $3.60′s, and Speedway was forced to follow.  Tuesday morning, they still had those prices, as did the Marathon down the road in Standale.  GoLo there was at $3.79, though, and at 3PM today as I drove by, Speedway and Marathon decided to try $3.85.  They’ll be back to at $3.79 or lower tomorrow, and we see this sort of behavior when there is a lot of room for prices to move, as I think there is right now.  I am calculating a price to retailers of about $3.54 right now.  The easy prediction recently has been “expect another hike”, although my math models don’t quite say that.  In these times, we sit back and watch.” — Ed A.

Bill adds:  Gas is $3.45 where I am in Oak Ridge, TN.

Severe Storms – Wind Damage/Severe Hail

April 12th, 2014 at 3:00 am by under Bill's Blog, News, Weather

Damage onedamage 2hail muskegon mike schmalz 4 12 14Damage 4 12 14 golf cart boulder creek 2 injured

12:59 am  – Line of storms training along US 10 with heavy rainfall…solid line of storms back to Iowa…bow echo along the Mississippi River will have to be watched.  Serious Flood Situation, esp. for Oceana, Newaygo, Mason, Lake, Osceola, Manistee, Wexford, Clare, and Isabella Counties, perhaps for N. Muskegon, N. Montcalm, Gratiot Counties. 100,356 Consumers Energy customers without power now, inc. 29,426 customers in Muskegon Co (37.0% of the county customers), 4,796 in Ionia Co. (21.3%), 16,166 in Kent Co. (6.0%) and 7,066 in Montcalm Co. (26.5%) and the worst county is Mecosta with 77.3% of the county without power (12,097 customers).  Gust to 56 mph at Big Rapids.  Flood WARNINGS now for Newaygo, Oceana, Muskegon, Montcalm, Mecosta, Isabella and Gratiot Counties after 2″ of rain…an additional +2″ of rain is possible by Monday AM.  At midnight, the front is along I-94.   Here’s Kyle Piers video – driving in the hail late PM near Cedar Springs.   2″ hail reports from Wisconsin and Iowa – storms moving east.   Hail to nearly 1″ in Hesperia.  Here’s regional radar…storm go all the way back into Iowa.   The storms have knocked the front down to S. Allegan and S. Barry Counties…at 10 pm the temperature is 70 at Kalamazoo, 48 in Grand Rapids, 72 at O’Hare in Chicago, 44 at Milwaukee – pretty easy to find the surface front.   Pics. on the left- a building that looks like it has been destroyed in Grant and a plane and building damage – from Lili Cruz – a golfball-sized hailstone from Mike Schmalz in Muskegon – and the golf cart at Boulder Creek that got hit by a falling tree.  Those guys were lucky they are still on this side of the divots.   Click on the pictures to enlarge.   – serious “training” of storms tonight along US 10 could produce severe  flooding.

Storm Reports:   5:27 PM TSTM WND GUST SPARTA  911 CALL CENTER LOCAL AND STATE POLICE HAVE ESTIMATED WIND GUSTS TO BE AT LEAST 80 MPH.  Semi blown over in Muskegon.   Multiple roofs of and partially damaged in Muskegon and S. Newaygo Counties.    Grant [Newaygo Co, MI] law enforcement reports TSTM WND DMG at 04:10 PM EDT — roofs off multiple structures with campers blown over.  Local Storm Report by NWS GRR: Kent City [Kent Co, MI] 911 call center reports TSTM WND DMG at 05:26 PM EDT — local Ford dealer in Kent Co. has suffered severe roof damage.   A TRAILER AND LOG CABIN HAVE LOST THEIR ROOF WHILE A BARN SUFFERED HEAVY DAMAGE.   From GRR NWS chat: Had a report from a lady between Sand Lake and Cedar Springs a few minutes ago of a 75 mph wind gust on her Davis Weather station.  Gust to 55 mph on Kuttshill in south Rockford.  Measured gust to 65 mph in Rockford – Eaglecraft Mobile Home Park – 18″ pine tree uprooted healthy, 8″ healthy large branch down, multiple pine trees uprooted in area.      If you have pics. of hail, damage send them to WOOD at ReportIt.   Several reports of pea-marble sized hail north of Whitehall/Montague.   Severe T-Storm Watch coming for IA, WI, IL.   Leave a comment if you get some hail.    There were severe t-storm warnings for the NE corner of Illinois for large hail.  Hail pics. here.    Those storms produced LOTS of severe criteria hail – up to the side of eggs (2″ in diameter!).  Check out more hail pictures here and here.  The storms also produced a 55 mph wind gust NW of Chicago at the town of Harvard.  Here’s all of today’s severe weather reports from SPC.    Radar here.  WOOD Lightning tracker here.    Any surface-based thunderstorms will weaken (though probably not die out completely) as they come out over Lake Michigan.  Elevated storms don’t care what’s underneath them…they’ll chug across the lake without skipping a beat.   We made 71° officially in G.R.   Much colder north of the warm front.   At 2 pm Sat. it was 35° with a stiff east wind on Mackinac Island.  Nice to be home, where I can spend more time on the blog…if and when I’m at work…I’m doing TV and won’t be able to update very often.

From Blythefield Country Club on Northland Dr. just north of West River Dr. “The golf course will be closed tomorrow due to extensive tree damage and debris from this evening’s strong storms and wind.  We lost several large trees not only on the course but around the clubhouse as well. Straight line winds have been reported at more than 85 miles per hour and uprooted these trees. The power is still out at the club.”

Another huge earthquake:   USGS just downgraded e-quake to 7.6 – still big.   67 miles SSE of Kirakira, Solomon Islands, the USGS reports.  .  Tsunami warning area reduced to Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea.

Overnight models print out some very serious rainfall totals.  The morning run of the European model gives G.R. 0.62″ of rain this evening (that may be overdone), then 2″ of rain from Sunday into Monday, then 1 to 1 1/2″ of snow Monday night, then more rain Thurs. night into Friday night.  The model also gives Ludington 3.85″ of rain, then half an inch of snow as it ends.  The models have been consistent in forecasting the very heavy rainfall and with it the prospect of significant flooding.

Also:  SURF’S UP!    and….Airbus wins weather satellite contract valued at millions of euros.


ISS Flyover Tonight

April 9th, 2014 at 1:53 am by under Bill's Blog, News, Weather

International Space Station    We have an excellent flyover of the International Space Station tonight at 8:40 pm.  Look to the southwest, about halfway up from the horizon (44°).  The ISS will appear and move toward you, coming nearly directly overhead…then moving away to the northeast and disappearing into the Earth’s shadow at 11 degrees above the ENE horizon.   You’ll be able to see the ISS for about 4 minutes.  There are more viewing opportunities coming up, so look at the schedule here. Here’s a link to a map that shows where the space station is right now (takes a little while to open the page). Here’s another tracking map with the position of the sun. The Space Station circles the globe about every 93 minutes. It’s about the size of a football field and flies about 220 miles above the ground, about the distance between Grand Rapids and Indianapolis. Check out for details on auroras, the number of sunspots, asteroid approaches and more. Sky and Telescope’s Sky at a Glance will show you the current position of the moon and planets.  You can also get the latest on West Michigan astronomical events from the Grand Rapids Amateur Astronomical Assn. Thanks to Steve Schrier for finding these very cool high res. pics. of Planet Earth.

Also, Mars is (relatively) very close to Earth now, and easy to spot as it moves across the sky from east to west during the night.  Venus is a bright, early morning “star”.  Here’s This Week’s Sky at a Glance.

Death Valley hit the 100-degree mark on Tuesday for the first time since September 25, 2013.  Heavy rains soak the Southern U.S.  This is the first year on record (since 1950) in which there was not an EF3+/F3+ tornado prior to April 9 in the US.  Global sea ice area 6th highest on record for the date, 11,000 Manhattans above normalRed Sprites!

Also…check this out…How Deep is the Black Box (which is really orange).

Great Lakes Water Levels and Ice Update

April 5th, 2014 at 12:43 am by under Bill's Blog, News, Weather

This is a picture from the Coast Guard Welcome IslandIcebreaker Mackinaw (pic. from Rick Leow, click on the image to enlarge).  This is in Thunder Bay, Ontario.  The Mackinaw reported ice in the bay up to 40″ thick in March with 12″ of snow on top of that.   Lake Michigan/Huron is up one inch in the past month and up 13″ year-to-year.  It’s 16″ below the century average.  The lake level is expected to come up 4-5″ during the month of April.  If it were to go up 5″, the lake would be just 11″ below the long-term average.  Lake Superior is up 1″ in the last month and up 15″ in the last year (that’s a lot!).  Superior is exactly at the century average.   Lake Erie is up 6″ in the last month and is 6″ above the level of one year ago.  The lake is 6″ below the century average for April, but is expected to climb 5″ during April.  The water level of Lake Ontario is unchanged in the last month and is exactly at the level of one year ago.  It’s 12″ below the long-term average (this lake had open water and hence more evaporation), but is expected to climb 8″ during April.  The outflow of water from Lake Superior down the St. Mary’s River into Lake Michigan/Huron is expected to be above average during April.  The outflow from Lake St. Clair through the Detroit River into Lake Erie is expected to be near average.

Here’s the graph of ice this winter on Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, Lake Superior, Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. Here’s the GLERL ice analysis for the Great Lakes and for Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, Lake Superior, Lake Erie and Lake Ontario.   You can check Michigan river levels here.   Most river levels in Southern Lower Michigan are well above average flow because of rainfall and snowmelt.  Here’s an example, the Grand River at Ionia.  Here’s current Flood Advisories.  Here’s HPC’s total rainfall forecast for the next 7 days.

Also:  White Lake to be removed from list of  “toxic hot spots”Zebra mussels improve property values?    Update on wolves and moose on Isle RoyaleCoast Guard Warning to stay off the ice.   Ice delaying shipping season.

Gas Prices

April 4th, 2014 at 12:39 pm by under Bill's Blog, News, Weather

gas prices

Here’s the latest from Ed:  “Friday, April 4, 2014, 8:15AM:  We saw another Saturday hike, to $3.85.  We have a great group of commenters on our site right now, and they have pointed the way to understanding what has been going on with these price hikes lately.  As you may have heard on the news, March saw a shortage of ethanol (related to problems in rail service!), and a spike in ethanol prices.  Since most retail gas these days is at least 10% ethanol, depending on where you live, this has impacted prices, and it is also messed up my calculations.  I have never factored fluctuations in the price of ethanol into my spreadsheet, but I will start doing so when I do my annual spreadsheet upgrade in May.    So, what happens this weekend?  Ignoring the ethanol issue, prices could fall to $3.50 in Michigan, and we are in the mid $3.60′s right now.  If we had the kind of ethanol shortages we had in March, then a hike back to $3.85 is likely in the next few days.   I just don’t know, so the safe thing to do is to fill up for $3.65 or less today. — Ed A.

Also – check out the Scary Looking Cloud!  Severe storms hit Arkansas:  “Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe has activated the National Guard for security & traffic control mission as crews restore power in Ouachita County…22,000 without power.   Heavy snow has fallen from NE Nebraska to Lake Superior.   61 years of tornado tracks.   Giant “Black Box Detector” joins search for missing plane in S. Indian OceanA desert thunderstorm in DubaiNice pic. of lighting over St. Louis.   El Nino coming on…could mean more beneficial rain for Northern and maybe even Central California…won’t flip the weather here…we stay cooler than average (though not as cold relative to average) thru much of April.  El Nino’s centered near region 3.4 do not always mean warm winters for Michigan and the Great Lakes.  Weak El Ninos centered in region 3.4 are often cold and/or snowy…it depends on the intensity of the El Nino.   Here’s today’s severe storm reports, damage in Louisiana and Tennessee.  Here’s Thursday’s severe weather reports (near 350 of them).     5.7-magnitude earthquake strikes 16 miles off coast of Ydra, Greece

Hudsonville-Standale Tornado Anniversary

April 3rd, 2014 at 12:01 am by under Bill's Blog, News, Weather

hudsonville tornado  Today, April 3rd, 2014, is the anniversary of the strongest tornado ever to hit the state of Michigan. The strongest wind on the surface of Earth in 1956 was on Van Buren Street in Hudsonville, Michigan on April 3, 1956. There were 17 fatalities (13 in Hudsonville) and 340 were injured. Take a moment and watch this YouTube film, pictures and map of the twister and this color film of the deadly storm. The tornado was rated F5, one of 59 F5 and EF5 tornadoes in the U.S. since 1950.  There has been one in Canada.  The tornado path was at least 48 miles continuous from Vriesland to Trufant in Montcalm Co. The twister was as wide as four football fields at one point!  The first of four significant tornadoes that day came onshore off Lake Michigan at Saugatuck  and destroyed the lighthouse there.  That was an F4 tornado!  It dissipated east of Holland with the Hudsonville-Standale tornado forming shortly thereafter, more than likely from the same parent storm.  Another tornado struck near Bangor and stayed on the ground for 55 miles before lifting near Alto in SE Kent Co.  That tornado injured twelve.  Another tornado killed two in Benzie Co.  Click here for more links to learn about other tornadoes in Michigan that day and the weather situation that produced them. Ernie Ostuno of the GRR NWS wrote a fantastic book on the event which you can order here (a great gift for someone interested in tornadoes, storms or weather).  Here’s the Flicker Pictures that a commentator linked to.   Today is also the anniversary of the Super Outbreak of Tornadoes in 1974.     Here’s the article that NWS Meteorologist Ernie Ostuno wrote about the storms.  Film of the damage.  More film here.    Click on the image to enlarge.  This thread has been moved up from last year.  New comments in 2014 start with #135.

Another Major Earthquake Hits Chile

April 2nd, 2014 at 11:24 pm by under Bill's Blog, News, Weather

earthquake  ANOTHER MAJOR EARTHQUAKE IN CHILENew video…magnitude 7.6 (yesterday’s was 8.2).  Tonight’s earthquake was centered on land, 22 kilometers (12 miles) south of Iquiqui, which is a major city with a population of about 180,000.   That’s about the same size as Grand Rapids.  The earthquake yesterday (4/1) was 95 kilometers (59 miles) northwest of Iquique.  This quake was a little deeper than the one on Tues.  It was 24.9 miles deep.   A Tsunami Warning was  issued for Chile and Peru, but has been cancelled.  The earthquakes epicenters appear to be about 70 miles apart.  Residents quickly evacuated buildings and the coastline…evacuating the areas of Arica, Tarapacá, Antofagasta and Iquique…sea level bouncing around near Iquique…looks like maybe one meter or a little less than that so far…fires erupting (often happens after major earthquakes)…seismic data on the quake.   Chile radio feed.   The strongest earthquake ever recorded on the planet also struck Chile — a magnitude-9.5 quake in 1960 that killed more than 5,000 people.   Here’s a road split by the earthquake.

Also earthquakes and a volcanic eruption in Peru.  The volcano is experiencing over 200 earthquakes a day.  There was a 6.0 magnitude e-quake just offshore of Panama.  Tuesday’s earthquake produced a 1.8 foot tsunami at Hilo, Hawaii.

Modis pictures – Cooler Near the Lake

April 2nd, 2014 at 9:47 pm by under Bill's Blog, News, Weather

modis lake michigan   modis great lakes  Modis Lake Superior modis lake erie modis lake ontario modis lake huron These are the MODIS satellite pictures from Weds.  Note the very significant amount of ice left on the Great lakes and the snow cover to the north.  The cooling effect of the lake today was extraordinary.  While G.R. made 53° for a high temp. and Kalamazoo reached 56°, the high temperature on the beach at Muskegon was 35.2°.  At 3 pm this afternoon, the temperature on the beach at Michigan City, Indiana was 33.6° and the temperature at the water intake 2.8 miles east of Chicago was 33.3°.  It’s going to be a slow melt and a slow warm-up with that kind of effect.  There will be a lot of days this spring when it’ll really be cooler near the lake!  Here’s the graph of ice this winter on Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, Lake Superior, Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. Here’s the GLERL ice analysis for the Great Lakes and for Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, Lake Superior, Lake Erie and Lake Ontario.

Earthquake off the Chile Coast – 6 Dead

April 1st, 2014 at 8:45 pm by under Bill's Blog, News, Weather

earthquake chile   Quake Video here – “Heavy Shaking”.  A magnitude 8.2  earthquake has hit 62 miles NW of Iquique, Chile, at 7:46 pm EDT Tuesday evening.  The quake prompted a Tsunami Watch and Warning, which has now been cancelled.     Here’s more.

Forecast tsunami height map.  Approximate tsunami arrival times are here.   Map of tsunami moving across the Pacific Ocean.   Tsunami sirens sounded on the Chilean Coast.  Lowland areas being evacuated.  There were reports of a 7-foot tsunami on the Chilean Coast.   Chile ONEMI Emerg, Ofc says reports of landslides partially blocking roads.  Live coverage in Spanish.    One of top 5 strongest quakes since 2000.  Aftershocks occurring, strongest was magnitude 6.2.   Four aftershocks over magnitude 5.0 in the first few hours after the main quake.    The 8.2 earthquake would be 22,387 times more powerful than the recent earthquake in Los Angeles Co.    The quake depth was 6.2 miles.  Church steeple toppled in Huara.   Sea-level gauge shoots up as tsunami comes in.   More video.   There are several earthquake related fires.     All flights to and from Iquique, Chile, have been cancelled. The airport control tower has been damaged.  Mayor of Juan Fernandez island, Chile reports that the island was completely evacuated.  E-quake felt in Peru and Bolivia.  Tsunami wave height of 7.6 feet at Pisagua, Chile.   Iquique is reported to have a 90-100% power outage in the entire city.  Two large fires in Iquique.   The highest tsunami waves yet recorded were 2.5 meter waves in the port city of Iquique.  For context, the tsunami that struck Japan in March 2011 included waves of around 10 meters, reaching to up to 40 metres.   The Boxing Day tsunami, the deadliest on record, included initial waves of up to 33 meters.