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Metro Detroit weather: Bitter cold air, looming weekend storm

Update on big weekend storm

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DETROIT – Before getting to the forecast, just a word of thanks to all of you who watched my live climate change webcast Wednesday on ClickOnDetroit.com and the Local 4 Facebook page.

As of midafternoon, over 325,000 people had watched part or all of it, which is most gratifying. If you missed it, we recorded it and you can watch it right here. Please share this with others who want an honest, unbiased presentation of the scientific facts about global warming, with no politics whatsoever.

Now, let’s talk about the weather. Yes, it’s cold outside, as afternoon wind chills have dropped into the single-digits (-12 to -18 degrees Celsius), and this Arctic air that is screaming across Lake Michigan is generating some lake effect snow bands.

These bands are narrow. You could be a few miles to either side of one and not know it’s there, but it’s snowing pretty heavily underneath it. Use a lot of caution this afternoon and evening if you are out driving. Fortunately, the bands will end for us Wednesday night as the wind veers, and skies will become partly cloudy overall. Lows will be around 6 degrees, with wind chills between 0 and -10 degrees (-18 to -23 degrees Celsius). The west wind will blow at 15 to 20 mph.

It will be partly cloudy and windy on Thursday, with highs around 14 degrees (-10 degrees Celsius), with wind chills continuing between 0 and -10 degrees (-18 to -23 degrees Celsius).

Thursday’s sunrise is at 7:55 a.m., and Thursday’s sunset is at 5:02 p.m.

It will be partly cloudy Thursday night, with lows around 2 degrees (-17 degrees Celsius).

Friday will be mostly cloud, but we’ll have a dry start to the day, before light snow develops by mid to late afternoon. This is the start of the big weekend storm and, if you have the option, it may be worth thinking about starting work early so you can leave a little early. Highs will be around 17 degrees (-8 degrees Celsius).

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Snow will really pick up by late afternoon or early evening Friday, and become moderate to heavy Friday night. It’s impossible to assign a specific snow total to the Friday night snow, but right now it appears that we’ll be in the neighborhood of a solid 6 inches of snowfall. This could change, so stay tuned. Temperatures will actually rise through the night, and should be in the mid-20s (-4 degrees Celsius) by Saturday morning.

Saturday is still the tricky part of the forecast. The four models I’ve seen this afternoon all suggest a transition to ice and rain for some of us, but there are subtle differences in the models that have important implications for you and me. It’s just not possible yet to predict exactly where that transition line will be but, in a general sense, the farther south you are the better the chance to see some rain, while the farther north you are the better change you don’t get rain and keep seeing mostly snow. The one piece of good news for Saturday is that we’ll have a temporary warmup into the low to mid-30s (0 to 2 degrees Celsius).

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Snow or snow showers should diminish Saturday night, with another batch of Arctic air moving in.  Thus, any wet surfaces Saturday evening may quickly freeze into ice. Be very careful if you’ll be out late Saturday night or early Sunday.  Temperatures by Sunday morning should bottom out around 11 degrees (-12 degrees Celsius).

It will become partly cloudy and windy on Sunday, with highs around 17 degrees (-8 degrees Celsius), but wind chills between 0 and 10 degrees (-12 to -18 degrees Celsius).

Things finally quiet down Monday through Wednesday, with partly to mostly sunny skies each day and temperatures gradually moderating to near 30 degrees (-1 degrees Celsius) by Wednesday.

Christmas travel weather outlook

I took a look at the long-range computer models, and there don't appear to be any big storms in next week’s southeast Michigan forecast. Things at this point appear dry for Christmas Eve/Christmas Day and the start of Hanukkah -- the two holidays coincide this year -- and that's great news for travelers. It’s over a week away, however, and things can always change. I’ll let you know if anything crazy develops but, as of now, things look pretty good for your holiday travel.

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