Winter is around the corner and we are on your side with how to best handle it.
Winter Weather Terminology:
Watches, warnings and advisories – words that become familiar around West Michigan during the winter.
All alerts are issued from the National Weather Service, which is in Grand Rapids for West Michigan residents.
When a Winter Storm Watch is issued, it’s time to prepare, as there is potentially harmful impacts from winter weather in the near future.
In times of a Winter Weather Advisory or Winter Storm Warning, it’s time to take action. In low to moderate impacts, a Winter Weather Advisory will likely be issued. The alert will read Winter Storm Warning when the impacts are deemed moderate to large.
Impacts we monitor are self-explanatory, but very important to daily activities. Plowable snow, reduced visibility, the severity of travel and dangerous wind chills are all effects observed when alerts are in place.
There’s a new feature the 13 On Your Side Weather team is highlighting this season – the snow day planner. We’ll show you which parts of West Michigan has the greatest chance of a snow day on our weather page when old man winter makes his presence felt.
Preparing Cars and Homes For Winter:
Heading into winter, everyone knows that they will have to deal with the ice, snow and cold at one point or another. Preparation is what can take a potentially very negative and time-consuming encounter and make it more routine. This goes for both your home and your car!
With this in mind, the following are some tips you can use to get prepared this winter.
For Your Car:
Some basic maintenance can go a long way!
Start first by making sure your wiper blades are in good condition, the kind that is ready for ice and snow. Under the hood, check your washer fluid to make sure it is full and a winter-ready mixture. Some summer blends will freeze in the cold temperatures of winter.
While you are under the hood, keep in mind your battery will need to be looked after too! A weak battery may die in the cold winter months, so to avoid becoming stranded, have your mechanic or an auto shop test your battery to make sure it is in good health.
Next, take a look at your tires. Make sure these are free from damage and have plenty of treads to keep you firmly planted on the road through the ice and snow.
Finally, let's take a look at the supplies you should keep in your car all winter long. The following list is a good start, and be sure to include anything else you think that may come in handy:
- A full tank of gas
- Cat litter (for traction)
- An extra coat
- Road flares
- Phone charger
- Ice scraper
- Jumper cables
- First aid kit
Having these objects in your car could make all the difference if you become stranded in the snow during the upcoming winter!
For Your Home:
Now that we have your car ready, it's time to take a look at your home!
On the outside of your home make sure you have sealed up your windows against drafts to help reduce your heating needs during the winter. It's also a good idea to clean out your gutters, especially after the leaves from the fall have clogged things up. This will allow for your roof to properly drain the water from melting snow this winter and prevent overflows and ice forming where it shouldn't.
You should also make sure any of your winter weather preparation and snow/ice clearing tools are located and prepped to go before you need them this winter. This includes things like shovels, salt, ice melt, snow blowers, leaf blowers and anything else you might need.
The image below shows which tool goes best with each type of winter precipitation.
Finally, let's wrap up inside your house!
Before winter sets in you should make sure you have your HVAC system serviced. This ensures your heating needs are being met this winter in the most efficient way and that the system is safe and reliable. You should also make sure to have any active chimneys cleaned out and confirm any and all space heaters are in good working order.
Since any way of heating your home comes with at least some risk, it is also an important time to remember to check your carbon monoxide detectors and smoke detectors. Making sure these are installed and operational is key to staying safe during the winter months!
Putting all these tips together for your car and home should leave you ready to take on anything a West Michigan winter can throw your way!
Getting Out and Enjoying Winter!:
Despite each winter looking a little different in West Michigan, there is endless fun to be had. Here are just a few of the options available in our area.
Watch the city transform into a winter wonderland during the World of Winter Festival. This is a two-month-long frozen festival of fun working to make Grand Rapids as active in the winter as it is in the summer.
Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park is open year-round with countless activities. From visits with reindeer, wintertime walks and sounds of the season.
Head to the lakeshore where you can find Muskegon Luge Adventure Sports Park. Offering everything from pond hockey, cross country skiing, to ice luging.
Hit the slopes at three local ski resorts: Cannonsburg Ski Area, Mulligan's Hollow and Bittersweet Ski Area. PJ Hoffmaster State Park, Saugatuck Dunes State Park and Blandford Nature Center are also great places to hike or snowshoe in the heart of winter.
You can always keep it old school and get hooked ice fishing on the big lake, most inland lakes and rivers.
Some well-known local sledding hills include Cascade Township Park, Johnson Park, Belknap Park and Richmond Park.
No matter which way you choose to enjoy, each winter looks a little different.
Our temperature, over the past 10 years, has averaged about 27° each season. The years 2011 into 2012 and 2015 into 2016 were the warmest years in the last decade. It's hard to forget how chilly 2013 into 2014 was, coming in the coldest in the last 10.
As for snowfall over the past decade, we have averaged about 57.9 inches each season. Our snowiest season in that time frame was from 2013 to 2014. Yes, the same year as our coldest temperatures in the last decade! What a winter that was.
The Winter 2021 Forecast:
And now, what might we expect this winter…?
Let’s begin with this year’s strongest predictor of the winter season: La Niña.
Cooler-than-average sea-surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean along the equator west of South America can lead to warm, dry weather over the southern U.S. and cool, wet conditions over the northern U.S.
We have had 20 La Niña seasons since 1950, including last winter.
According to the experts, La Niña temperatures for December through March are close to average, then trend colder for February through April, finishing warmer for March through May.
The verdict? Near average weather early this winter; cold for late winter.
La Niña snowfall for December through February is less than normal, even for January through March, then more for February through May.
The verdict? Less early snow, more late.
And what about the polar vortex?
When the PV weakens the jet stream, crosses the polar regions and drives further south through eastern North America, there will be colder temperatures and more snowfall.
When the PV is strong, the jet stream remains north and locks the cold air over the poles, resulting in warmer temperatures and less snowfall.
Will the lakeshore get more snow than inland?
Since 1936, Muskegon gets on average more snow than Grand Rapids 4 out of every 5 years; recently, however, Grand Rapids has had more snow than Muskegon 4 out of the past 5 years.
Could this be because Lake Michigan water temperatures are warmer than average? So, instead of more snow, more rain?
So this year’s winter forecast includes near- to colder-than-average temperatures, and near- to less-than-average snowfall.
In the future, climate change will likely continue to bring warmer winter. How much snow will fall depends on whether temperatures reach a threshold leading to more rain events than snow.
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