Metro Detroit weather: Temperatures drop, winter storm watch issued

Winter storm watch goes into effect Wednesday morning

Paul Gross takes a look at the upcoming Metro Detroit weather forecast for Dec. 12, 2017. (WDIV)

DETROIT – Hot on the heels of the 3- to 5-inch snowfall that hit on Monday, another even more potent Alberta clipper winter storm will hit Wednesday.

The models seem to be in pretty good agreement on the storm’s track, so now, it’s just a matter of assessing how much moisture it’ll be able to tap into and how much snow that moisture will produce.

But first things first: We have nothing to worry about Tuesday night, except that it’ll be very cold.

Skies may actually clear for a while before clouds increase once again around dawn, with lows in the low teens (-10 degrees Celsius). A west wind at 5 to 10 mph will keep wind chill near zero all night long, so make sure that you bring in the pets Tuesday night. I’ve included some winter weather safety tips for pets at the end of this article.

Wednesday will start dry, and our morning rush hour will not have any issues aside from the usual problems caused by people making high-risk choices behind the wheel. Snow will spread across the area from west to east between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m., and will become heavy as the afternoon wears on. Needless to say, the afternoon rush hour will be a complete mess.

Highs should reach the mid-20s (-4 degrees Celsius), and this is important: how much snow a winter storm generates from its available pool of moisture is based upon temperature. The warmer the temperature, the higher the snow’s water content, and thus, accumulation is relatively less. The lower the temperature, the lower the snow’s water content is, and the more this powdery, fluffy snow piles up.

In Wednesday’s case, the snow should fall in fairly cold temperatures, so I’m expecting a 15-1 ratio of water vapor available to snow. As such, the heaviest stripe of snow Wednesday should generate from 4 to 8 inches of the white stuff.

Now, it's time for some brief psychology: Whenever there is a snow forecast like this, people only remember the highest number. Please remember the range. Some of us will get perhaps 3 to 4 inches, but just like on Monday, it appears that the heaviest band of snow will set up between I-94 and M-59. Accordingly, the National Weather Service has issued a winter storm watch for all Local 4 counties, except for Sanilac.

Here’s how the timing is setting up for this winter storm:

Here is a rough idea of where the snow amounts will end up. As with Monday, where that most intense, narrow band of snow establishes itself will dictate where the highest totals fall:

On the Local4Casters Snow Meter, this will be a tough snow to shovel just based upon the amounts, but I’m keeping it just on the edge of a “Pizza and Beer” snow, which is considered to be a 6- to 10-inch snowfall. Anything over 10 inches is a baby boom snow in my book.

Snow will rapidly diminish Wednesday night, with only those of us in the Thumb still seeing some lingering, narrow lake effect bands as winds behind the storm shift to the north. Lows will be in the low teens (-11 degrees Celsius).

It will be mostly sunny to partly cloudy on Thursday, with highs in the low 20s (-6 degrees Celsius).

There will be increasing clouds Thursday night, with lows in the low to mid-teens (-9 degrees Celsius).

Snow showers are likely on Friday, but this doesn’t appear to be a significant storm perhaps giving us just a fresh coating. Highs will be in the upper 20s (-2 degrees Celsius).

Snow showers will diminish Friday night, with lows in the mid-teens (-9 degrees Celsius).

It will be mostly cloudy on Saturday, so Lions fans and tailgaters shouldn't have any problems getting to Ford Field for the big game against Da Bears, with highs near 30 degrees (-1 degree Celsius).

It will be mostly cloudy Saturday night, with lows in the low to mid-20s (-5 degrees Celsius).

It will be mostly cloudy on Sunday, with the small chance for a snowflake or even a rain drop. Highs will finally get above freezing into the mid-30s (1 to 2 degrees Celsius).

Cold weather tips for pet owners, from the Michigan Animal Adoption Network:

  • If you know anyone who keeps pets outdoors, persuade them to bring them inside.
  • Low temperatures, winds and precipitation can lead to illness, hypothermia and death.
  • Dogs and cats can suffer from frostbite in a matter of minutes, mainly on feet, ears and tails.
  • Local laws require that if dogs are kept outdoors, the owner must supply the dog with "proper" shelter:
    • If kept outside, use a dog house that is not oversized, since the dog needs to retain body heat.
    • Put a wind flap on the dog house door.
    • Provide plenty of clean, dry straw (at least two-thirds full)
    • Blankets and towels only freeze when used in a dog house.
    • Dog houses must be elevated off the ground so they don't freeze on the bottom.
    • If animals must be kept outside, face the dog house away from wind.
  • Double up on food intake during cold weather. Extra weight keeps animals kept outside warmer.
  • Snow is not sufficient to hydrate animals. Water bowls freeze and animals need access to clean, fresh, unfrozen water.
  • Feral cats need proper shelter and protection from the elements as well.
  • Cats who spend time outside can freeze, get lost, injured or climb into the bottom of warms cars for warmth.
  • Salt and other chemicals can irritate the pads of animal's feet.
  • When you are cold enough to go inside, pets most likely are, too.
  • If you see a dog or cat in need of a help, become that animal's advocate. Speak with the owner, and if that fails to improve the situation, contact your local animal shelter, Humane Society or Animal Control office.

Symptoms, signs of hypothermia

The main sign of mild hypothermia in dogs in excessive shivering. Dogs shiver in order to produce body heat, thus, continuous shivering may mean the dog's body temperature is too cold. A dog with hypothermia will also breath abnormally slow and breathing patterns will become very shallow. The dog's heart rate will slow considerably and because of muscle stiffness, the dog may become clumsy, losing all coordination. Dogs may also appear lethargic. Moderate to severe hypothermia occurs when the dog's temperature falls below 95 degrees. In some cases, the dog's eyes may become very dilated and fixed, and their gums may turn very pale or bluefish in color. In extreme cases, the dog may collapse and/or enter into a coma.

Treatment for hypothermia

Immediate treatment of hypothermia is crucial. The primary goals in the treatment and handling of a hypothermic animal are: to keep the animal alive by warming, avoid any further exposure to cold and then transport the animal to a site of complete veterinary care. If a dog is not treated in the appropriate time period, its temperature may become so low that it cannot be restored to normal levels, making it fatal. Take the dog immediately to a veterinarian if you suspect it has severe hypothermia or warming methods do not seem to be helping the dog.

About the Author:

Local 4 meteorologist Paul Gross was born in Detroit and has spent his entire life and career right here in southeast Michigan. Paul has researched, written and produced eight half-hour documentaries for WDIV, as well as many science, historical and environmental stories.