TRAVERSE CITY — Weather forecasters predict a cold, snowy start to the New Year.
Temperatures could dip to zero — that’s right, 0 — with wind chill readings between 5 below and 15 below zero today through New Year’s Day. Another round of lake-effect snow will accompany the frigid thermometer readings with two to four inches of accumulation expected in the Grand Traverse region before the end of the holiday, National Weather Service forecasters said.
All that translates to a chilly New Year’s Eve in downtown Traverse City for the CherryT Ball Drop tonight, but the weather won’t dissuade countless locals and visitors from venturing outside for the festivities.
Michigan State University student Cooper Macdonell plans to brave the cold — albeit briefly — to watch the giant glowing cherry drop.
“We’re thinking of trying to find some place downtown to keep away from the cold until the ball drops, “ said Macdonell, a Traverse City native. “Step outside for a few minutes, watch the ball drop, then hopefully go back inside after that.”
Others like Kate Fall and her husband Matt will hunker down inside as they count down the New Year instead of heading downtown, especially since they have small children.
“We’ll stay in and stay warm,” Matt Fall said.
Kate and Matt Fall, who were visiting relatives in Traverse City from their home in Jackson County’s Pleasant Lake, waxed nostalgic about the cold and snow as they walked along Front Street Monday morning. Kate Fall said this winter’s weather reminds her of how Michigan winters seemed 10 years ago.
“This feels like holidays when I was a kid,” Matt Fall said.
It’s been far colder, with more snow than normal in the Grand Traverse region this winter, thanks in large part to “Arctic air” in the area, said Nick Schwartz, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Gaylord post.
The world’s northern-most pocket of Arctic air normally leans to one side of the globe or the other.The polar air pocket leaned toward parts of northern Europe and Russia in recent years, but this year it shifted toward North America, Schwartz said.
The daytime high- and low-temperature average this month is 4.3 degrees colder than the 22.6 degrees that’s normal in Traverse City as a result. The more-than 55 inches of snowfall thus far also zoomed by Traverse City’s average of 34.8 inches.
Schwartz said cold temperatures ramp up lake-effect snow, but there is a silver lining for those who’ve already had their fill of snow. Much of the Great Lakes could freeze over earlier than normal in 2014 if below-average temperatures continue. That will lead to less lake-effect snow.
“If we get ice cover on Lake Michigan, we lose the lake-effect snow machine,” Schwartz said.