Michigan weather: Saturday storms could threaten Port Huron-to-Mackinac sailboat race

This weekend is the annual Port Huron-to-Mackinac sailboat race, the longest freshwater sailboat race in the world.

I’ve actually raced in two of them -- it’s quite an endurance test. The race starts around noon Saturday. They leave Port Huron and sail northward up Lake Huron. And Saturday afternoon there is the possibility that some strong to severe storms will cross the lake. Wind gusts over the lake could exceed 60 mph near the storms, and waves could reach five feet.

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Metro Detroit weather: Spotty rain Friday before Saturday storms

Since this is a sailboat race, they can’t turn on their engines and motor away from the storms. In some cases, boats will have to plow right through them if they cannot navigate around them. While boats sinking are rare, it did happen in the 1985 race when the yacht Tomahawk went down. They fired flares, abandoned ship, and another boat turned on its engines and motored over to rescue them.

Saturday’s severe threat

Saturday morning will start with scattered showers and thunderstorms ahead of a warm front crossing the area. That front is the front edge of a much stickier air mass, so get ready for the humidity to come roaring back.

It may take about 2-3 hours for thunderstorms to start developing once the warm front passes. Storms will develop along a line from roughly Saginaw Bay to Kalamazoo, and they will move southeastward during the hottest part of the day.

These storms will become strong-to-severe, with a high risk of damaging wind gusts. There is also a risk of hail, but that isn’t as big as the wind threat. So, be ready for potential power outages by keeping your devices fully charged Saturday morning.

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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.