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Meteorologist: What’s causing the windiest day I’ve ever seen in Michigan

High winds pushed a large pine tree over onto a house in Ann Arbor.
Andy Thomas
High winds pushed a large pine tree over onto a house in Ann Arbor.

High winds have been punching Michigan squarely in the nose today.

“I was seeing the strongest winds I’ve ever seen in my 35 years as a meteorologist in Michigan today,” said Jeff Masters, a meteorologist with Weather Underground.

Gusts are knocking down power lines and trees across the state. Over 350,000 customers are without power.

“I mean, that’s bad ice storm level power outages – 350,000 customers,” Masters said. “We haven’t seen that level of power loss in a number of years.”

Masters said today he’s witnessed sustained winds blowing at 40 mph or more – with gusts as high as 65 mph – at various stations around the state.

“Over on the west side of the state, they’ve got it the worst,” he said. “Grand Rapids sustained winds of 47 mph. That’s more than tropical storm force. That’s going to cause a lot of damage when you have sustained winds for multiple hours like that.”

Credit Stiig Emblad
Fence line collecting garbage from wind in Detroit at the intersection of MLK Blvd, Trumbull and Grand River.

The west side might have it the worst, but the “entire state” feels it somehow, Masters said, including the Upper Peninsula. The waters around Michigan are feeling it too.

“They’ve got some really huge waves on the Great Lakes today,” he said. “I mean the shores are getting pounded with probably ten foot waves in some locations.”

What’s causing the wind?

“We’ve got a very powerful low pressure system over northern Canada and some very cold Arctic air behind it that’s flooding into the Midwest,” Masters said. “And the difference in pressure between that low pressure to the north and then higher pressure to the south is driving these extraordinary winds.”

The temperature differences in this region of the world are also contributing to the wind.

"I mean we’re talking winter-like, below-zero temperatures in Canada, temperatures down in the 80’s to our south,” Masters said. “That temperature difference helps drive the pressure difference that we’re seeing too, and thus you get these extraordinary March winds.”

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