Winter storm maintains its grip as gusting winds, bitter cold temperatures persist in Metro Detroit

Saturday highs in upper teens, Sunday highs in lower 20s

4Warn Weather – I implored you not to focus on the snow with this impending storm all week long. Not only was this going to be a very complex storm with a very challenging snow forecast, but the wind and bitter cold were going to be the most dangerous elements.

Unfortunately, many people gauge a storm’s severity only in inches. Of course, as you know by now, this storm has underperformed in snowfall amounts. More of the moisture aloft (which I explained ad nauseam all week long) fell as rain before the cold air moved in and changed it to snow. Not one computer model, NOT ONE that I looked at Thursday, suggested as little snow as we got.

At some point, I’d love to dive deep into the physics of this storm and see what the models ended up not having a good handle on. Although my intuition was for less snow (not as little as we got, but less than what the models were suggesting), nothing in the model trends suggested that my intuition had merit.

In any event, that’s the excellent news; less snow meant less snow on the ground to blow around and create blizzard conditions. However, the storm overachieved with temperatures, which crashed into the single digits (-16 degrees Celsius) by dawn. The models also accurately timed the onset of the strong wind gusts, which are still gusting between 40 and 50 mph, with higher gusts still possible into the evening hours.

This brutal temperature/wind combination pushed wind chill values into the -15 to -25 degree range (-26 to -32 degrees Celsius) Friday afternoon. Had the Winter Storm Warning not been in effect, the National Weather Service likely would have issued a Wind Chill Advisory for this dangerous cold.

As far as additional snow is concerned, the snow in the area (and the most noteworthy areas of that are in the Thumb) should break up overnight. However, the high-resolution models still suggest that a lake effect snow band or two could extend from Lake Michigan all the way eastward into our area later Friday night into Saturday morning.

Saturday

These bands are narrow, typically less than 10 miles wide, so any additional accumulation is very localized to those areas under the bands (perhaps an inch or two, but probably on the lower end this time). Right now, it appears that areas north of M-59 (especially the Thumb) have the best chance to get into some of these bands, although there’s one generally reliable model that brings another band into the southern part of the area later tonight into Saturday morning. Keep an eye on the 4Warn Weather App’s real-time radar to see if and where they eventually set up.

Otherwise, wind gusts approaching or even exceeding 40 mph will continue through the rest of tonight and continue into Saturday. Temperatures tonight will hold in the single digits (-15 to -17 degrees Celsius), with wind chills between -15 and -25 degrees (-26 to -32 degrees Celsius). Clouds hang tough as well, with highs Saturday in the mid-to-upper teens (19 degrees Celsius), with afternoon wind chills between -5 and -15 degrees (-21 to -26 degrees Celsius).

Christmas Day

Christmas Day should have nothing more than flurries or light snow showers, with temps in the low-to-mid teens (-11 degrees Celsius) at dawn and highs near 20 degrees (-7 to -6 degrees Celsius). Wind chills Sunday will range from zero to -10 degrees (-18 to -23 degrees Celsius).

Next week

We need a warm-up, and one’s on the way! After starting what will be a vacation week for many on the cold side, highs rise into the mid-20s (-4 degrees Celsius) on Tuesday, into the mid-30s (2 degrees Celsius) on Wednesday, and then into the 40s and perhaps even approaching 50 degrees (7 to 9 degrees Celsius) the rest of the week. Of course, with warm temperatures, any precipitation that falls later next week will be in the form of rain, so if you’re a skier, plan on early-to-mid-week skiing and possibly some nice conditions later in the week if the rain holds off.


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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.

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