GRAND REPIDS, MICHIGAN (WOOD) – The radar of the Grand Rapids National Weather Service is down for about two weeks due to maintenance.
While the radar is not running, many viewers are asking what additional information they can use to stay up to date with the weather. In particular, plow drivers want to know what to look for to be sure they are staying on savings.
The first tool we can use is the surrounding radars.
Much further, radar rays from Detroit, North Indiana, Gaylord, Chicago, Milwaukee and Green Bay occasionally sweep over Western Michigan.
This means that even though our local radar isn’t working, you’ll still see rain and snow over Western Michigan, but they probably won’t catch as much as our local radar. Any snow or rain you see in the region is likely to be heavier than presented, and things like fog, rain, or icy rain may not appear at all.
One of the best tools you can use are current traffic maps. Our own map of traffic conditions is exceptional: it shows the current deceleration in real time with yellow or red colors popping up at a slower or much slower speed than usual.
While it is safe to say that you are likely to see a slowdown at rush hour, a wide slowdown is a good sign of heavy snow.
There is nothing better than seeing firsthand the snow that is coming off. On the road map above there is a whole set of MDOT cameras so you can see what’s happening on the ground across the territory.
In many cases, skycams can be a better source of ground truth than a fully functioning radar on a good day. Radar analyzes the sky a few thousand feet above ground level. Sometimes snow or rain that appears on radars does not reach the ground due to layers of dry air. Otherwise, a little moisture can cause rain or fog, which is visible on cameras but almost indistinguishable on radar. Cameras are a good tool that can be used as additional information even on a good day.
NOAA has a free app called mPING that shows rainfall reports in real time. This allows you to see what makes it land across the area.
Reports are only available when people choose to submit them. As a result, more reports are usually received in more populated areas.
You can find mPING for Apple and Android devices.
One of the best ways to find out if it’s snowing is to check your current visibility. Visibility in miles usually indicates snow. Half a mile of visibility usually indicates that there is moderate snow. Visibility a quarter mile or less usually means there is heavy snow.
While looking for visibility reports can be difficult, Storm Team 8 regularly uses them on air. We are a great resource for those who hope to be aware of the weather.