By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium
SOUTHWEST MICHIGAN — The sprinklers were running long last week in an attempt to revive the dying grass in Southwest Michigan.
With the exception of a few scattered showers, it appears lawn owners will have to continue let them run.
According to data collected from the National Weather Service Northern Indiana office, Berrien County has seen one of the driest summers in the last 15 years.
Meteorologist Nathan Marsili said there are only a few days this week that will have a 20-30 percent chance of rain. However, the real cause for concern is the amount of heat and humidity the area will see Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
“It looks like, as we get into Thursday, it becomes more of a concern,” Marsili said. “We are expecting highs for Berrien County to be around 90, with the increase in moisture, we are going to have heat indices around 100 degrees.”
Friday’s heat index is expected to reach the upper 90s near Lake Michigan and as high as 105 degrees in southern Berrien County.
Hot and very humid conditions will push the heat index to more than 100 degrees. Excessive heat watches and heat advisories will likely be in effect for much of the Midwest states through the weekend, Marsili said.
The NWS is cautioning anyone who has planned outdoor activities during the afternoon and evening.
Marsili said high dew points – like the ones Southwest Michigan is expected to get this week –can increase the air’s temperature another 10 degrees.
“The main thing to watch for is if any rain or thunderstorms can bring temporary relief to certain areas close to Lake Michigan, Marsili said. “The air will already be too humid by Saturday.”
Based on measurements by the NWS at the Southwest Michigan Regional Airport, 1.07 inches have been collected in July through Tuesday.
This marks the eighth driest July the NWS has recorded since it began measuring the precipitation level in Benton Harbor 15 years ago.
The driest July through the first three weeks came in 2009, when Benton Harbor produced 0.29 inches of rain.
Marsili said the main reason for the recent stretch of zero precipitation can be attributed to an upper level ridge over the Midwest. Any precipitation will stay on the northern edge of the ridge in the upper Midwest. Unfortunately for Southwest Michigan, it is in the middle of the ridge.
This area’s only chance at a reprieve from hot weather this week will be occasional disturbances in the ridge.
“We do have chances for rain this weekend. Weakening that ridge would bring rain and thunderstorms,” Marsili said. “Thunderstorm clusters will form to the northwest of us. I don’t have a lot of confidence in a storm to affect the forecast. If there are brief periods of rain, it will vary at each location. The entire county won’t get that needed rain.”