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Above is a picture is baseball-sized hail in Cullman, Alabama this evening. There have been dozens of reports of severe criteria hail from Mississippi and S. Tennessee east into Georgia with half a dozen reports of hail the size of tennis balls and golf falls. There are also dozens of reports of wind damage and possible tornadoes.
Here's a map that shows where there have been severe weather reports in the U.S. so far this year. Red dots are tornadoes, green dots are severe hail reports and blue dots are wind damage reports.
Through yesterday (3/18), there have been just 73 tornadoes in the U.S. this year. That compares to 393 for the period from Jan. 1 - Mar. 31 2017. Last year through 3/19, we had 25 tornado fatalities, this year so far just 2.
Note that there isn't much severe weather in the Plains States (none in Kansas). The severe weather season starts in mid-late winter in the Lower Mississippi Valley, moves into the Plains in spring, where there are severe storms and tornadoes in "tornado alley" from Texas to Nebraska, then migrates north into the Northern Plains, Midwest and Great Lakes from June to August.
We're not certain that it will snow here on Saturday.
Some computer models say the snow (and rain mix) will stay south of us across parts of N. Illinois, N. Indiana and Ohio. Others say the precipitation gets as far north as Grand Rapids. It'll be cold enough that most of the precipitation in our area would be snow.
The overall dry weather pattern we are in should last through Friday of this week. With a healthy breeze, low humidity and dry ground, we have an elevated grassfire risk the rest of this week.
There is an Enhanced Risk of severe storms Monday and Tuesday across parts of the Southern and Southeastern U.S.
The most likely area to get severe weather today (Mon.) is Central Tennessee into Northern Alabama.
For tomorrow, the highest risk will be across parts of Florida. The Storm Prediction Center warns that "...hailstones of greater than 2 inches in diameter, wind damage and a tornado threat will be possible.
A strong high pressure system to our north in Canada will continue to keep the severe weather threat well south of Michigan and the Great Lakes this week.
The Kp-Index ramped up to a 6 overnight. The Kp-Index gives us a good indication of whether we will be able to see the Northern Lights (or Aurora Borealis). Usually, a 6 is high enough so that dark areas away from city lights might be able to see a green glow above the northern horizon.
One drawback is that we have some high clouds overhead, but they are partially thin.
We really don't know for sure if we'll have another outside chance to see an aurora tomorrow night. I'll be tracking it.
The photo above is the Muskegon Channel shortly after sunset on Saturday. Grand Rapids officially had 96% sunshine on St. Patrick's Day and an average wind speed midnight-to-midnight of just 4.6 mph. In this dry air we continue to see a relatively large difference between the early morning low temperature and the afternoon high temperature. Saturday G.R. rose from 22 in the AM to a high of 53 at 4:33 pm. Up north, Cadillac had a low temp. of just +8 Sat. AM, then rose to 43 in the PM. In the U.P., the high/low was 46/-3 at Doe Lake and 51/-1 at Baraga Plains. The relative humidity dropped to 12% at Wausaukee MI and six other weather stations had relative humidities of 13%.
This is the MODIS satellite pic. from Sat. PM. It's clear except for some clouds south of Chicago and S. Bend. There is snow on the ground in N. Wisconsin and in N. Lower Michigan. There is still ice on most of Green Bay and up by th eMackinac Bridge. The lake is quite cold and generated a significant lake breeze on Saturday. While Grand Rapids rose to a high temp. of 53, the highest temp. at the Muskegon Beach was 38.5. The temp. dropped after that was only 34 at 4:33 p;m when G.R. was 53 - so that was a difference of 19. The wind at 10 am at the Muskegon beach was ESE at 3.6 mph at 10 am. At 5 pm (strongest wind with the greatest temperature contrast), the wind peaked at 21.6 mph from the northwest (off the water). By 11 pm, the wind was back down to 2.9 mph.
Despite the warmer temps., Bittersweet Ski Area is open today, as are most of the resorts in N. Lower and Upper Michigan.
This is the Lake Michigan MODIS satellite picture from NOAA Coastwatch from Friday PM. The water level of all the Great Lakes remains quite high.
The level of Lake Superior is unchanged in the last month (very little snowmelt so far around the lake). The level is 7" higher than one year ago and 13" higher than the March average. It's only 2" below the all-time highest level for March set in 1986. Lake Michigan/Huron is up 2" in the last month (runoff above average). The level is 10" higher than one year ago.
That represents a one-year gain of 3.9 TRILLION gallons of water - that's a lot. Lake Erie is up an incredible 11" in the last month (heavy rain coming into the river), up 7" year-to-year and is now 22" above the March average level. Lake Ontario is up 3" in the last month and is 11" above the March average. Lake St. Clair is up 10" in the last month, up 9" in the last year and is now 23" above the record high March level.
Great Lakes ice extent is at 23.4%. Lake Superior has the most at 43.9%. Lake Michigan is down to 10.1% and that is almost all in Green Bay and up by the Mackinac Bridge.
The top pic. is Bittersweet Ski Area, where they have plenty of snow and will be open this (Fri.) afternoon/evening and over the weekend. Here's a look at Michigan ski conditions (very good in N. Lower Michigan and the U.P. where it's been cold and they've had a little natural snow).
The late morning satellite picture shows sunshine over most of the state of Michigan. Lake-effect clouds continue to stream off Lake Huron and there are some lake-effect clouds over Lake Michigan
You can see lake-effect clouds over Lake Michigan in this picture from the Muskegon Channel. A general light north-northeast wind has kept the lake-effect clouds well out over the lake. As drier and warmer air filters in, those clouds will dissipate. A lake-breeze will develop this PM and the next couple afternoons, keeping temperatures cooler by the cold water.
Travel throughout Michigan should be on clear and dry roads. This late morning pic. from the Mackinac Bridge shows clear skies and pretty solid ice in the water below the bridge.
This picture is a trailcam from Michigan Tech Univ. in the U.P. It was cold there last night. The temp. dipped to -1 at Houghton, -3 at Ironwood and -6 at Champion. Here's Michigan snow cover this (Fri.) AM: Painesdale 40", Grand Marais 37", Munising 33", Copper Harbor 32", Calumet 30", Atlantic Mine 28", Herman 27", Marquette and Harvey 25", Jacobsville 22", S. Ste. Marie, Watersmeet, Paulding and Michigamme 19", Ironwood 18", Chatham 16", Cooks 15", Champion and Gladston 14", Rapid River 13", Ontonagon 12", Green Garden 11", Stambaugh and Arnold 9", Norway 8", Gaylord 7", Manistique and Kingsley 6", Onaway and Alpena 5", Maple City 4", Grayling 3", Houghton Lake 1".
The morning run of the NAM computer model gives G.R. a high temp. of 49 tomorrow with clear skies and a high of 52 on Sunday with mostly sunny skies (some thin cirrus comes in during Sunday PM). The two weekend afternoons will be the warmest days of the month of March so far.
Clouds have come down from the north and are overspreading the area. They should be with us for much of the rest of the day, keeping temps. in the 30s. The picture above is the Muskegon Channel. Note that there is still slippery ice on the breakwaters. At 11 am - the temp. is 32 in G.R., just 27 in Cadillac. Snow flurries are reported at many weather stations north of Pentwater and Big Rapids and a few of those could rotate south into our area this PM...but mainly trace amounts. Winds are northwest at 10-20 mph, knocking the wind chills down to the mid teens to mid 20s.
As you can see, it's perfectly sunny on the other side of Lake Michigan at Chicago (Milwaukee also sunny at 11 am EDT). Here's a satellite picture from shortly before 11 am. Clouds are drifting south and it's pretty much overcast across all of N. Lower Michigan.
Yet another rain/snowstorm heading to the East Coast early next week.
This system may pass south of us in Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio on its way to the East, or we may just get brushed with the north edge of the storm (could be rain, snow or a mix if that happens).
In the meantime...breezy and cool today...a nice Friday with lighter winds...then partly to mostly sunny and a little warmer for the weekend.
Up top is the MODIS Lake Michigan satellite picture from this (Weds.) afternoon. Look northwest of Green Bay and you’ll see a light-colored streak running southwest to northeast. A tornado occurred there on June 7, 2007 – that was 10 1/2 years ago!
It was an EF3 tornado with winds of 140-160 mph and it was one of five tornadoes that touched down in northeast Wisconsin that afternoon.
Here’s a view of the tornado path from the air. The tornado was on the ground continuously for at least 40 miles and was 1/2 mile wide.
The tornado moved through the Menominee Indian Reservation, which was mostly forest. The twister knocked down 14,000 acres of trees, or roughly 21.8 square miles of trees. By contrast, the city of Grand Rapids, Michigan is 45.27 square miles. The scar is most visible in winter, when snow is on the ground.
The Earth has been subject to earthquakes, floods, meteors, hurricanes, volcanoes, tsunamis, wildfires and tornadoes. Sometimes it takes a while to heal the scars of catastrophe, but heal it will.
With time the forest will return and this scar will be left to the pages of history and the memories of those who recall the storm or the path it left for more than a decade.