Monday afternoon ice storm will likely cripple travel

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WEST MICHIGAN — As we outlined in a detailed post on Saturday a significant ice storm will unfold across Michigan Monday afternoon and evening. Read that post here. The Monday morning commute will NOT be impacted, but the afternoon/evening commute will not be pleasant. Dangerous and treacherous driving conditions are expected. It’s advised to stay off the roads during that time frame if at all possible!

WINTER STORM WARNINGS, WINTER WEATHER ADVISORIES, AND FREEZING RAIN ADVISORIES have been posted for our entire area but they don’t go in to effect until Monday morning. See the graphics below. Anywhere from .25″ to .50″ of ice accumulation is possible. The worst conditions (including strong winds) are expected to be in the WARNING areas, with lesser amounts and slightly improved conditions in the ADVISORY counties along and south of I-94.

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Winter Storm Warning

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Winter Weather Advisory

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Freezing Rain Advisory

We are expecting a snow/sleet mix to begin along the Michigan/Indiana border by mid/late morning, then change to freezing rain as it spreads northward through Grand Rapids and eventually our northern counties. Several hours of moderate to heavy freezing rain is likely during the afternoon/evening hours with temperatures stuck in the 20s most of the day. In fact, we could even see minor accumulations of sleet (ice) before the changeover to freezing rain occurs. See FutureTrack HD below. The image is valid for 6:00 PM Monday evening.

RPM12KM_18Z_Midwest

FutureTrackHD

.25″ to .50″ of ice is significant. Coupled with strong easterly winds sustained at 20 to 30 mph with gusts to 50 mph could be quite crippling, perhaps devastating. Long term widespread power outages and downed trees/limbs are possible as the weight of the ice weighs heavy and swings back and forth for several hours. The strongest winds will be through the late afternoon/early evening hours. It’s been said that tree branches can increase their weight by as much as 30 times with ice attached, and several hundred pounds of added weight can plague power lines.

The image below is from our forecast model and shows wind gusts/speed/direction at 8:00 PM on Monday. Quite impressive to say the least! As an example Grand Rapids is expecting a sustained wind of 30 mph, gusts to 44 mph, and an easterly wind at that time.

RPM_Wind Speed_Gust_Direction

Predicted wind speeds & gusts

We should also note that the scope of this system is huge. This is the same system that generated tornadoes in Texas, killed almost a dozen people, and prompted blizzard warnings from the Texas panhandle, to winter storm warnings through Wisconsin and Michigan. There will undoubtedly be huge travel impacts felt from this system across the country from holiday travelers trying to return home. See all the watches/warnings/advisories across the United States below.

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Alerts across the country

As the main low pressure area moves closer to Michigan Monday night, we’ll wrap in some slightly warmer air which will change any freezing precipitation to all rain (liquid) by late Monday evening/night. Our high temperature on Monday will make the middle 30s, but not until 11:00 PM or so. The graphic below shows what the National Weather Service model is predicting for total ice accumulation.

NWS Ice

National Weather Service

Our FutureTrack HD computer forecast model for total ice accumulation can be found below. You can see the general continuity between various sources.

RPM_Accumulated_Ice_21Z_DMA

Predicted ice accumulations

Please be safe. I would highly recommend not traveling on West Michigan roads Monday afternoon/evening unless absolutely necessary. Don’t forget you can always email photos and reports to news@fox17online.com, weather@fox17online.com, or post anything to our FOX 17 Facebook page. I’ll say thanks in advance. And don’t forget to keep those generators handy with fresh gas in the event we lose power. Make sure NOT to operate the generators inside the house, the basement, or anywhere that carbon monoxide fumes can enter a living area.

A general pattern change with sharply colder temperatures are in store this week with some minor accumulating snow likely here and there. Get the complete forecast at www.fox17online.com/weather.

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6 comments

  • Andrew

    KCRC Jerry Byrne’s comments on preparing for this storm:

    “You can’t put a hard pellet down and thinking it’s going to be there 16-18 hours from now when it starts to snow.”

    He explains that.the traffic kicks up the salt into the air and off the road. And for the few pellets that hit the corner of the tires, that is true. However, most of them are either missed by the tires completely, or go entirely under the tires where they are crushed into a fine powder which (due to its mass) can not be thrown far enough to get off the road. Further, this powder absorbs moisture from the air (assuming it is not snowing yet) and then sticks to the road surface. Will it be there 16 hours later? No, of course not. But it will be there 8 hours later in sufficient amounts to help prevent ice from forming. So to pre-salt a day in advance is pointless, he is right about that. But pre-salting 6-8 hours ahead of an expected storm is called prudence, and to do no pre-salting at all is criminal negligence.

    “If we get wind we are going to get trees down. That will stretch the crews thin because they will have to split time between the roads and clearing trees. The road crews are doing everything they can to make driving conditions safe, but it’s up to the drivers to meet them half way.”

    OK, but why weren’t the trees trimmed of potentially problematic branches during the summer? Why weren’t potentially problematic trees cleared then? That is what the power company does to keep its lines clear. Why has the KCRC not been doing the same for its roads? This is MI, and we get ice storms every year. Adequately and reasonably preparing for them ahead of time is part of the KCRC’s responsibility, just as learning how to drive responsibly before a storm hits is the job of the public. Drivers are more than happy to meet the KCRC halfway. The thing is that halfway is not anywhere near where Byrne thinks it is.

    “To think we can’t pound the salt on the road to make it 70 mph conditions is foolish. We expect the motorist to listen to the forecast just like we do and drive accordianly.”

    Your Road Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen.

    • Jules2u

      Andrew, I know you are not suggesting that KCRC clear every tree along the all the roads in the hopes that the trees will not come down in any potential storm, because that is what it appears what you are suggesting. That, after all, would be the only way to ensure no trees ever fall on the roads. You never know which trees will fall, nor do you know if it will be a young healthy tree or an old dying one.

      • Andrew

        No I am not suggesting that, although several of the local power companies (the ones with better reliability rates than Consumers, I should point out) do indeed remove every single tree and limb taller than 6 feet within 40 feet of their power lines, so I don’t think it is as unreasonable as you imply. But no, I was not suggesting anything so stringent. There are easily identifiable “high risks” however. Many types of tree are particularly prone to snapping when they reach certain hights (aspens and poplars, for example), many trees which are prone to splitting when they get to certian thicknesses (willows), and many trees like maples which are prone to internal decay when they get to a certain size. In addition, thick branches which overhang roadways should be given particular and individual assessments annually to determine whether they ought to come down or not. Trees and limbs which are broken or obviously dead and which pose falling risks should be removed immediately.

        Essentially Jules, my point was the same one I have been making about the KCRC for years now. They should be proactive rather than reactive. Peoples’ physical well-being and potentially even their lives are what is at stake, and maintaining safety is a proactive activity. If you are merely being reactive, then you are not maintaining a state of safety, you are allowing conditions to become unsafe and then reattaining that safe state. It is a subtle difference, but when physical injury and lives are potentially in the balance it is an important one to make. The stated purpose and objective of the KCRC is to maintain safe road conditions, not to allow them to continually vacillate between safe and unsafe. By being reactive instead of proactive, they are neglecting their duty and obligation.

    • Fidel Sarcastro

      So if I drive like Weird Al Yankovic everything should be cool, right? :D

      Seriously though, Byrne has got to learn that the more he opens his mouth the more he reveals his incompetence.