Smoky Sky

July 28th, 2014 at 9:10 pm by under Bill's Blog, News, Weather

sunset smoke bill steffen july 28 2014    sunset smoke With a fresh, clean airmass coming down from Canada, you’d expect a bright blue sky. Instead, we have a hazy sky that looks more like we’d be in a stagnant tropical air mass with little wind. There is a layer of smoke that produced our orange sunset this evening. I took the picture on the left with my phone. The pic. on the right is from NOAA. Click on the images to enlarge. Here’s more:

July 28, 2014
SMOKE:   Canada/Northern U.S:
“Wildfires continue to rage over the Northwest Territories in Canada, mainly around Great Slave Lake, and produce a large amount of smoke. The smoke is moving to the north and northeast of the fires into the high Canadian Arctic, where it is is beyond the range of GOES satellite detection. The smoke area then curls clockwise around a high pressure system and moves southward into the western Great Lakes. The smoke covers most of eastern Northwest Territories, Nunavut, northern Alberta, northern Saskatchewan, much of Manitoba and Ontario and the western half of Hudson Bay. The smoke also covers northern Minnesota, and much of Wisconsin and Michigan. Most of this area was moderate to dense, with light smoke mainly confined to the edges.”

Dangerous Pier Currents

July 27th, 2014 at 9:56 pm by under Bill's Blog, News, Weather

advisory   The National Weather Service has issued a Beach Hazards Advisory from 6 am through the evening Monday.  Brisk north to northwest winds will create dangerous currents along the north side of piers and breakwaters.   Temperatures will only be in the 60s at the lake beaches, so few people will venture into the deeper water, but anyone planning to do that should stay away from swimming near or jumping off the north side of the breakwaters.  This is especially a concern at State Parks and beaches where the swimming area is on the north side of the breakwater (Holland State Park, Pentwater).  When there is a strong south or southwest wind, it’s the south side of the piers and breakwaters that can get these dangerous currents, like Grand Haven State Park.   The northwest wind pushes surface water against the breakwater and produces a current that flows out toward the middle of the lake.   Here’s a look at the latest Lake Michigan beach water temperatures, the Recreational Beach Forecast for the Lake Michigan Beaches and the latest Great Lakes water levels.   You can check conditions at the South Lake Michigan buoy (40 miles west of Holland) and the North Lake Michigan buoy…and…check out the water temperature at the mid-Lake Superior buoy!

Severe Weather is Over

July 27th, 2014 at 1:59 pm by under Bill's Blog, News, Weather

WW0446 Radar Hail 2 inch 7 27 14 Cooper Township by Renee Lyon   Hail pic. sent to WOOD-TV by Renee Lyon.  This was Cooper Township – Kalamazoo County.   Golfball-sized hail near Plainwell and on D Ave. in Kalamazoo.  Gust to 45-60 mph near Battle Creek along with pea-sized hail, 40 mph in Oshtemo.  Hail on Helmer Rd./Kalamazoo Co.   1″ hail near Big Rapids and Zeeland, pea-sized hail in Port Sheldon.   Golfball-sized hail in Stevensville (Berrien Co.), 1 1/4″ hail at S. Bend IN,  3/4″ hail in DeWitt, Albion,  Williamson and Lake George, 1/4″ hail in Waverly (Eaton Co.), north of Holland, Bath, Portland, Rives Jct.,  and Paris (Mecosta Co.)    Here’s GRR radar.

At 1 pm,  the wind was gusting to 45 mph from the east at Gaylord, with the wind pushing out of the back of a storm. Near Gaylord a tree fell on a car and a couple people were briefly trapped inside the car. There have been many hail reports from the Traverse City area to the east and northeast. 1″ diameter hail fell at Grayling and Mio. Gaylord had over an inch of rain in 75 minutes.  Here’s a list of severe weather reports from West MichiganNorthern Lower Michigan, E. Michigan, and N. Indiana (inc. Michigan counties that border Indiana).      Check out the links in the 2 threads below this one.

Great Lakes Water Levels and News

July 25th, 2014 at 12:48 am by under Bill's Blog, News, Weather

Lake Superior sunset Jack Martin 7 18 14    Picture from Jack Martin of a Lake Superior sunset near Munising on 7/18.   Lake Michigan/Huron (one lake for lake level purposes – connected at the Mackinac Bridge) is 2″ higher than it was one month ago and an incredible 15″ higher than it was one year ago.  Each extra inch of water on Lake Michigan represents an additional 390 billion gallons, so 15″ would be an increase of 5.85 TRILLION gallons!  Lake Michigan/Huron is now just 4″ below the long-term average.   It’s now 27″ above the lowest July level of 1964 and 36″ below the highest July lake level in 1986.  Lake Superior is up 2″ in the last month and up 11″ year-to-year.   Superior is now 7″ above the long-term average and only 6″ below the highest ever July lake-level of 1950.  Lake Erie is down 1″ in the last month, unchanged in the last year and 4″ higher than the century average.   Lake Ontario is down 3″ in the last year, but 2″ higher than the long-term average.   Lake St. Clair is up 1″ in the last month, up 7″ in the last year and 4″ above the century average.   The outflow from Lake Superior down the St. Marys River into Lake Huron is expected to be above average through the rest of the summer.   The Grand River in Grand Rapids is running (as I write this) at about double average flow (3400 cfs vs 1620 cfs average).  The Muskegon River at Croton is at 1150 cfs compared to an average of 1210 cfs.   The Kalamazoo River at New Richmond is at 1630 cfs compared to an average of 1729 cfs.

News:  Fastest 12-month lake level rise on Lake Superior since 1916Sewage overflows in Chicago not the fault of “global warming“.  Update on Enbridge replacing pipeline.   More support anchors for Great Lakes oil pipelines.

Multiple Fatalities in VA tornado

July 24th, 2014 at 11:42 am by under Bill's Blog, News, Weather

cherryhill  At least 2 fatalities and 36 injuries in a morning tornado in eastern Virginia.  Campers were overturned at the Cherrystone Campground and huge trees were toppled (some on the campers).  The storm hit around 8:40 am.   At least one semi was tipped over on a nearby road.  The driver was injured.  Large hail was also reported with the storm.  Picture from WAVY-TV.  More pictures here.   VIDEO of Softball sized hail and the tornado here.    Virginia Beach EMS says the City of Virginia Beach has responded to the Eastern Shore with six ambulances, a mass casualty truck.   The National Weather Service tweeted that it has a storm survey team headed to the Cherrystone Campground area to survey the damage.  1,328 people were listed as residents or visitors at Cherrystone Campground, according to a news release from Northampton County. 150 to 175 people lost their shelter, and were being transported from the campground to a local emergency shelter.  WAVY News reported from Lankford Highway in Northampton County that there was a stream of ambulances coming in and out of the campground area. The road is currently open *just* for emergency personnel.  Hail was still on the ground two hours after the storm and a couple billboard signs bent back from the wind.   The Coast Guard confirmed there are overturned boats in Oyster Bay.     Riverside Shore Memorial Hospital said the hospital has received 26 patients following the storm: 3 critical, 8 trauma, 8 pediatric.  More pictures here.   200 to 300 people have been taken to Northampton High School, where a temporary shelter has been set up.   The courthouse in Eastville closed down for the day so that workers could go to the scene to help.   The Northampton County Board of Supervisors issued a declaration of a local emergency following a reported tornado.  According to the declaration, the county is facing a condition of extreme peril, necessitating the proclamation.   Helicopter video.

Update:  The tornado has been rated EF1 and started as a waterspout on Chesapeake Bay.   From the National Weather Service Survey Team:   0833 AM TORNADO CHERRYSTONE 37.31N 76.00W 07/24/2014 NORTHAMPTON VA NWS STORM SURVEY *** 2 FATAL, 36 INJ *** EF-1 TORNADO MOVED OFF THE CHESAPEAKE BAY…THEN CROSSED NORTHERN PORTIONS OF CHERRYSTONE CAMPGROUND…THEN MOVED EASTWARD ACROSS RT. 13.

Air Quality Alert (Advisory) Monday PM and Tuesday

July 22nd, 2014 at 12:06 am by under Bill's Blog, News, Weather

Ozone Action Day  The Michigan (and Indiana) Dept. of Environmental Quality has declared Monday to be an Air Quality Alert Day (you might remember these as “Ozone Action Days”…kind of like “global warming” has now been changed to “climate change” to cover more bases).  It’s likely that they will declare Tuesday an Air Quality Alert Day, too  The Advisory covers the lakeshore counties, Kent Co. and the Detroit area in Michigan and Lake, Porter and La Porte Counties in NW Indiana and the Chicago area.   This is for Ozone levels marginally reaching the “unhealthy level for sensitive groups”.  There was an Air Quality Alert Day issued for Sunday, but I did not see the readings reach “unhealthy levels”.  So, unless someone can correct me, it looks like they were at least one day early.   Here’s Ozone monitoring stations in Lower Michigan and Air Quality Index Values.  Here’s past Air Quality and Ozone Action Days (only two last year).   You can go to this website tomorrow and check the Ozone (AQI) levels and see if their forecast was correct.   Remember, there are FREE rides on the RAPID in the Grand Rapids Area and the MAX (Macatawa Area Express) in the Holland/Zeeland area (fixed routes only) on Clean Air Action Days.

Great Lakes Water Levels

July 17th, 2014 at 9:05 pm by under Bill's Blog, News, Weather

Lake Michigan Sleeping Bear Dunes - Jack Martin July 2014   Picture from Jack Martin, enjoying the Sleeping Bear Dunes.   Lake Michigan/Huron gained another inch last week, bringing it even closer to the long-term average.  The other Great Lakes remain above their long-term averages.

Lake Michigan/Huron (one big lake for lake level purposes) is up 4″ in the last month and is up a whopping 15″ in the last year.  Since each inch of water represents 390 billion gallons, that means Lake Michigan has added 5.85 trillion gallons of water in just the past year.  This is due to a combination of above average precipitation (Grand Rapids has had 9.47″ of rain since June 1, 3.65″ above average) and lower evaporation (lots of ice this past winter).  Lake Michigan/Huron is now only 4″ below the long-term average.   Lake Superior is up 2″ in the last month and up 14″ in the last year.  Superior is now 6″ above the century average and only 6″ below the highest water level ever reached in 1950.  Lake Erie is up 1″ in the last month and up 3″ in the past year.  Erie is 5″ above the long-term average.  Lake Ontario is 4″ above the century average.  Lake St. Clair is up 2″ in the last month, up 7″ year-to-year and 3″ above the century average level.   Lake Superior’s outflow down the St. Mary’s River into Lake Huron is expected to be above average into August.  The outflow our of Lake Erie down the Niagara River is also expected to be above average.

Also, cool picturemosquito population triples (audio)…shark spotted in Lake Ontario??!!grain shipments increase on the Great LakesJuly waterspouts on the Great Lakescold water lingers in the Great Lakesheavy rains cause trash to float into Lake MichiganWSBT gets lake level story right.

Gas Price Going Up

July 15th, 2014 at 10:32 am by under Bill's Blog, News, Weather

gas prices   The latest from Ed:  Due to sliding wholesale prices, there was on-going pressure to keep retail prices down.  However, wholesale prices have stabilized, and I’m seeing gas in the $3.20′s in Fort Wayne, and $3.30′s in Lowell, Michigan.  By my calculation, the price to retailers is about $3.40.  So, I’m going to fill up Tuesday morning, expecting a hike with a new price at least $3.69. — Ed A.

Dangerous Currents on the Great Lakes

July 14th, 2014 at 9:20 pm by under Bill's Blog, News, Weather

structural current    The National Weather Service has issued a Beach Hazards Statement for Tuesday.   The Statement warns of high waves, dangerous swimming conditions and strong currents.   There is a danger of longshore currents, rip currents and especially structural currents.  Click on the graphic to enlarge.  This is an overhead view of Grand Haven State Park.   Structural currents occur along the breakwaters of the Great Lakes.  What we often call piers are actually breakwaters.  Technically, piers allow water to flow underneath them.  Breakwaters stop the water and are often along river outlets to prevent sand from filling in the channels.  Structural currents are not a factor on calm days, but can be deadly on windy days.  When the wind pushes the water into a breakwater, the water has no place to go.  It can’t go up on the beach, or up or down.  So a current is created that moves along the breakwater out toward open water.  With a brisk south or southwest wind the dangerous structural current is on the south side of the breakwater (Grand Haven St. Park).  With a northwest wind (which will be the case on Tuesday), the dangerous current is on the north side of the breakwater ( North Beach in S. Haven, Holland St. Park, Muskegon St. Park, Mears St. Park, Stearns Park in Ludington).   The most dangerous place in the entire Great Lakes is the south side of the breakwater at Grand Haven.  It’s more of an issue when a strong south to southwest wind because the air tends to be warmer and more people are in the water.  On days with a strong north wind like Tuesday, the air is usually colder and fewer people are in the water.   Look at the picture here – it’s best to swim well off to the right (south) away from the breakwater, especially on windy days or days with significant waves.  Most of the fatalities in the Great Lakes due to currents are on days when waves are 2-5 feet.  Waves on Tuesday are expected to be 2-5 feet.

There is always a chance of a waterspout when you have cold air coming over warm water.  This is most common from September into early November.   This year, the Great Lakes are colder than average due to both the cool spring and the cool temperatures this July (for the first two weeks of July, Muskegon is 3.7° colder than average and Manistee is a whopping 6.6° colder than average).  Waterspouts are weaker than most tornadoes and tend to dissipate as they come into shore.

Great Lakes News and Water Levels

July 10th, 2014 at 7:21 pm by under Bill's Blog, News, Weather

modis lake michigan  This is a MODIS Lake Michigan satellite picture taken today (Thurs.) showing clear skies over Lake Michigan.  There is an onshore  breeze all around the lake (west wind in Lower Michigan, north wind in Indiana, east wind in Wisconsin).  With all the rain we’ve had, everything is green and crops are mostly in very good shape at this point in the growing season (picture from NOAA Coastwatch).

Lake Michigan/Huron is up 4″ in the last month, up 14″ in the last year and just 5″ below the century average (that should drop to -4 or -3 this month). Lake Superior is up 3″ in the last month, up 13″ year-to-year and is now 6″ above average level. Lake Erie is up 2″ in the last month, up 5″ in the last year and is now 5″ above the long-term average.  Lake Ontario is down 2″ in the last month, down 2″ year-to-year and is 5″ above the century average. Lake St. Clair is up 2″ in the last month, up 4″ year-to-year and is 3″ above the long-term average. Flow down the St. Mary’s River from Lake Superior into Lake Michigan/Huron will remain above average through July. River levels in West Michigan remain above average flow. The Grand River in Grand Rapids is high, but still well below flood stage at 8680 cfs compared to an average flow of 2,370 cfs. Lake Michigan beach water temperatures are in the 60s. The mid-Lake Michigan buoy west of Holland (east-southeast of Milwaukee) shows a water temp. of 63°.

Also, World’s Strangest LakesIron Ore Shipments on the Great Lakes This Year Down 17%…and 9 of the best Michigan beaches.

Finally, check out this article from yesterday…it says:  “The Council of the Great Lakes Region released a new report last week, ‘Low Water Blues,’ projecting the economic impacts of future low water levels in the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River regions.  Although the report estimates a potential $19 billion in economic losses by 2050 if the Great Lakes water levels continue to decline, Stop the Drop founder Colin Dobell told The Expositor that this number won’t be enough alone to raise the alarm, stressing the need for the public to rally behind the cause in order for the government to take action.  “The report had a good, broad amount of funding and involvement across all sectors…”

Now compare that  alarmism with reality in the first paragraph above.   The Great Lakes are not “continuing to decline”…they have gone up significantly.  Lakes Superior, Michigan and Huron are all up over a foot in the last year.  Lake Superior is so high that they have upped the water release through the St. Mary’s River, which flows down into Lake Huron.   Contrast that article to this one in the Chicago Tribune.