West Michigan desperate for rain; relief on the way?

On Sept. 27, 2017, Andy Losik and his kindergarten class captured this bird's-eye image of the parched land surrounding Bentheim Elementary School in Hamilton, using a GoPro camera attached to a kite. (Andy Losik/Twitter)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — If you have a rain gauge, the only thing it’s likely been measuring lately is dust.

As of Sept. 27, Grand Rapids had tallied 20 consecutive dry days. Many trees in the city are showing stress because of the lack of water.

>>PHOTO: Tree in northeast Grand Rapids showing signs of dryness

“No doubt about it, it’s tough on trees. Water is essential for moving up minerals and nutrients for the tree and many of the physiological processes in a tree. So without water, those things just don’t act the way they should. And fall is a time when roots are actively growing, or should be growing, and that’s not happening when we’re not getting rainfall,” Scott Van Wyk of Bartlett Tree Experts explained Thursday.


The significant dryness began around mid-summer.

>>MAP: 60-day rainfall deficit in Michigan

While the lack of rain has become more obvious recently, our deficit actually stretches back to the beginning of the year. Grand Rapids has not received a half-inch of rain during a single day since Aug. 17. It’s been even longer since an inch or more of rain soaked the city; the last time that happened was June 17.

>>CHART: Long-term rainfall deficit 


A little relief may be in sight: We finally have at least a chance of rain in the forecast Wednesday night.

The wettest of the forecast models gives southwest Michigan anywhere from a trace to as much as a half-inch of rain.

>>MAP: Rainfall forecast from 4km RPM model 

Other models are not quite as generous with their rainfall predictions, but at least gives us something.

>>CHART: 24-hour rainfall predictions by models

Don’t put away the sprinklers just yet. Decent soaking rains are forecast to fall just west of Michigan, but it appears once again we will settle into a dry and warm pattern in the coming week(s).

>>MAP: Climate prediction center’s monthly precipitation outlook for October

October may follow suit after a dry July, August and September.

The dry weather is expected to impact Michigan’s fall colors, but Van Wyk, the tree expert, said we shouldn’t give up altogether on the show.

“There will be fall color, but it will be likely muted, pretty subdued,” he said. “What happens is the yellow pigment that is there all along gets unmasked when the chlorophyll breaks down, so yellow coloring trees will look much the same. The trees that color kind of red and purple, not so much. Those depend on water to become, say, activated. So that part of the color scheme’s going to be muted.”


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