A timeline of freezing rain, snow turning into rain, and the amount of ice and snow
A mixed band of rain is expected to cover much of lower Michigan today. With temperatures rising so slowly, it will take some time before the wintry mix changes to just rain.
There will be two different weather zones today. The southern third of lower Michigan, as far north as I-96 and I-69, will see mostly freezing rain this morning turning to rain this afternoon. The middle third of lower Michigan from I-96/I-69 north to near Traverse City and Skoda will have mostly snow, but very wet snow mixed with sleet and the occasional freezing rain. This area includes Grand Rapids, Saginaw, Bay City, Midland, Mount Pleasant, Clare, and Cadillac. Traverse City will likely stay out of any accumulation of more than an inch.
Warming today will be very slow. Most of southern Michigan will only reach 34 degrees by late morning, and the northern half of lower Michigan will warm to just 33 degrees. This is warm enough to make the salt work effectively on major highways and salted roads. Side streets and country roads now filled with snow may not melt until late tonight or tomorrow.
Here’s the radar forecast from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Blue is snow, purple is freezing rain, and salmon is snow, sleet and/or freezing rain. Green is rain.
You have an idea that the early morning freezing rain will turn to rain around noon from I-94 South. Rainfall ends in mid-afternoon in the south. For this area, just wait a few hours for the salt to work on major highways, but be careful in parking lots and on the sidewalk.
The amount of freezing rain ice accumulation now and over the next few hours will range from one-tenth of an inch to one-tenth of an inch. So it will be a slight accumulation of ice, but not enough to cause major power outages, especially since temperatures will rise above freezing by a degree or two. This area includes Detroit, Ann Arbor, Jackson, Lansing, and Kalamazoo.
Snow will dominate the precipitation type in Grand Rapids, Muskegon, Flint, Saginaw, Bay City and Midland. We can expect 1 to 3 inches of snow total in this area and one-tenth of an inch of ice accumulation. Ice accumulation will be in the southern part of this area, including Flint and Grand Rapids. Temperatures won’t reach 33 degrees until mid-afternoon. This means that any untreated road or pavement will thaw very slowly.
In this case, freezing rain sticks more strongly to roads at 32 degrees due to recent frigid temperatures. While the air temperature may reach 33 degrees, the ground surface temperature may reach 30 degrees. It will take longer for the ground to warm up than for the air temperature.
Here are the expected snowfall totals. Let’s call it 1 inch to 3 inches of snow for a band in the middle of lower Michigan.
This is the total forecast for additional ice accumulation that shows up to a tenth of an inch of freezing rain accumulation.
This afternoon temperature forecast shows you why you’ll still observe very cold surfaces on snow-covered sidewalks and country roads. The temperature will only be a degree or two above freezing.
A temperature of 33 degrees or 34 degrees will be very common this afternoon throughout lower Michigan. This will slowly melt any ice on the trees and make it instantly melt on any salted road.
If you have to travel today and can wait a few hours, the road conditions should be much better. We’ll just have to be a little careful and keep our eyes open for the change from wet to icy as you get to the side roads and parking lots.
Tomorrow’s rain is just rain – all rain and no sleet or snow. Thursday’s precipitation is also all rain, and more of it. You should also understand that we have another strong wet period coming over the next few days. You can find more about that here later today.