TRAVERSE CITY — Dirt-splattered snow banks will soon be whitewashed by new snow.
The Traverse City area could get up to 10 inches of snow in about three days, said Tim Locker, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Gaylord.
The heaviest snow was expected to fall this afternoon and evening, but flakes will continue to fall through Thursday.
“It’s a clipper, a low-pressure system, and behind that will be lake-effect snow,” Locker said.
The next few days will be marked by below-freezing temperatures, ending a respite from the cold that’s lasted several days.
Temperatures in the 30s, a bit of sun and wind gusts were enough to melt much of the ice that had accumulated on Lake Michigan, said George Leshkevich, a physical scientist at the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
“We had an early cold spell at the beginning of the winter, and that appears to have caused ice to form on the lakes earlier than normal. Then certainly with the arctic outbreak, or vortex, very cold air temperatures caused ice to build on the lakes very quickly,” Leshkevich said.
Those two factors caused 40 percent of Lake Michigan to freeze over by early January, Leshkevich said.
The latest warm spell melted ice to the point that it covers only 15 percent of the lake, but it’s still possible ice could form again.
“The lake has lost a lot of its heat, so the surface waters are near the point where ice can form,” Leshkevich said.
A lot is dependent on the winds, which can cause waves that keep ice from forming.
It’s too early to tell what effect future weather could have on ice cover, but local experts remain hopeful that the Grand Traverse Bay will freeze over this year.
“That thaw may have lost a little bit of shore ice, but if we get calm wind conditions and a little more weather, we could see the bay freeze,” Mark Breederland, an educator for the Michigan Sea Grant, said.