Powerful weekend storm still on track for Metro Detroit: What you need to know

Damaging wind likely on Sunday

By Paul Gross - Meteorologist

DETROIT - We’ve been telling you about this weekend’s storm since Tuesday, and the forecast has remained stable through the entire week, with today’s computer models offering little in the way of meaningful changes.

As expected, abundant sunshine and temperatures in the mid to upper 30s (2 to 3 degrees Celsius) by mid-afternoon made for a beautiful winter day. Quiescent conditions will continue through the night, with mostly clear skies becoming partly cloudy later at night.

Lows should drop to the low 20s (-5 degrees Celsius), with a very light northeast wind.

Saturday

Partial sunshine will greet us when we wake up Saturday morning (unless you sleep until noon), but clouds will rapidly increase.  Scattered showers will develop during the afternoon…some of us will get them, while others barely get a drop.  

Temperatures will rise to near 40 degrees (4 degrees Celsius), with an east wind at 8 to 13 mph.  

Rain showers become more numerous Saturday evening and overnight, with a February thunderstorm even possible.  At this point, it appears that any thunderstorms that do develop will not have strong wind.  

Temperatures will rise into the mid 40s (6 to 7 degrees Celsius) Saturday night, and hold steady most of the night.  

Some computer models suggest that we’ll approach 50 degrees (10 degrees Celsius), but it really doesn’t matter since most of us will be sleeping at that time.

Get ready for Sunday

Saturday night into Sunday morning, a rapidly deepening area of low pressure will cross the northern part of the state roughly from Traverse City to Sault Ste. Marie.  

As mentioned yesterday, it appears that the low’s barometric pressure will drop so rapidly that it will satisfy the criteria to be called a “bomb”…this is a real meteorological term that’s been around for a long time, and not some term used to hype the weather (although some others will use the term for hype to get you to click on their stories – we will never do that).  

Some northern Michigan February records for low barometric pressure could be challenged.

For us, it’ll be breezy when we wake up Sunday morning, and possibly with a bit of temporary sun…it’ll be a good opportunity to get out for an unusually mild early February morning run (until the wind kicks in and showers return).  Check the radar on our app before heading out!

Here is a series of maps showing the progression of our weather this weekend:

Wind will rapidly increase Sunday morning, and the strong wind will continue well into Sunday evening.  Wind gusts of 45 to 50 mph are easily attainable, with gusts well above 50 mph possible.  

Accordingly, the National Weather Service has issued a High Wind Watch from 7:00 a.m. Sunday through 1:00 a.m. Monday.  Here is just one snapshot in time showing some of the expected gusts Sunday:

Preparing for damaging winds

Ben Bailey and I were talking this afternoon that this could rival last year’s May 4th high wind event. The greatest similarity to that event is the duration…many hours of sustained strong wind and damaging wind gusts.

300,000 customers lost power that day although, to be fair, it’s important to remember that some trees already had their canopy of leaves at that time…that enhances the wind’s force on the tree.  

Even if this Sunday turns out to be not as bad as last May 4th, there will be some power outages.  Just in case, make sure to keep your cell phones and tablets charged, and stay far away from any downed power lines.  

Remember that metal objects, such as fences, could become electrified well away from the downed line, so just stay away.

Any lingering rain showers Sunday will transition to scattered snow showers, but accumulation does not appear to be noteworthy for us.  On the western side of the state, however, intense lake effect bands combined with that strong wind (even stronger near Lake Michigan) will create true white-out conditions.  

If you will be traveling either to or from the Lake Michigan area on Sunday, you probably want to rethink those plans.

As mentioned above, we’ll start Sunday mild, but temperatures will fall by afternoon…we’ll be in the mid 30s (3 degrees Celsius) by the end of the afternoon.

A quick look at next week

Fortunately, the week ahead looks relatively quiet, with just a light snow chance midweek.  Highs will be a little below average…generally in the upper 20s to low 30s (-2 to 1 degree Celsius).

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