WEST MICHIGAN — As the days continue to get shorter and fall draws near, temperatures below freezing will be here soon enough.
Around the middle of September, our attention turns to when the first freeze is going to occur in West Michigan. This is important to those who have plants in the ground because the first freeze (temperatures at or below 32°) means the end of growing season.
This year, it is a bit different for West Michigan.
EEE, or eastern equine encephalitis, is popping up in our southwestern counties. According to the MDHHS, EEE “… can develop into severe encephalitis, resulting in headache, disorientation, tremors, seizures and paralysis. Permanent brain damage, coma and death may also occur in some cases.”
Seven cases of the mosquito-borne virus have now been seen with three of them fatal.
Mosquitoes are usually killed off when the first significant freeze occurs. The hope is to have it happen soon, but short-term forecasts show that the warm air is likely to hold on through the end of September into early October.
The average first freeze for a few of the counties currently impacted by EEE is Oct. 1-10. Once you start getting closer toward Lake Michigan, that date goes to Oct. 21-31 because of the warmer waters keeping temperatures above the freezing mark.
The current forecast shows a slightly above normal October in terms of temperatures, so the first freeze this year could be stretching towards the climatological latest date. That date, for some in southwest Michigan, pushes into November.
(Both graphics courtesy of the Midwest Regional Climate Center)