One day after a monstrous snowstorm, Metro Detroit residents are grappling with an arctic chill that plunged temperatures to their lowest point in two decades.
Homeless shelters filled as temperatures plummeted to 12 degrees below zero Monday night — a record for the date. Temperatures were expected to drop as low as minus 15. Records for freezing temperatures were expected to be set again today.
Motorists face icy conditions on roads and numerous schools, including Detroit Public Schools, Berkley and Utica, will remain closed for a second day today.
Citing “extreme wind chill temperatures and blowing snow,” Michigan State University canceled classes until noon today, following a rare shutdown Monday.
“It’s a bad situation,” said Jeremy Love of Canton Township.
Cass Community United Methodist Church, which operates two shelters and a warming center, had taken in 30 people Monday night and expected more as the thermometer continued to drop.
“They don’t make reservations,” said the Rev. Faith Fowler.
Church volunteers have been working around the clock distributing hats and dispensing food and hot drinks. The warming center opens when temperatures drop below 10 degrees.
A wind chill warning issued by the National Weather Service will remain in effect through Wednesday.
The life-threatening conditions sent people scurrying for shelter.
“It’s hard out there, this is like a really hard winter, it’s been really, really cold,” said Pamela Campbell, who is staying at Genesis House III, an emergency shelter for women and children operated by the Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries.
At the Salvation Army MATTS (Macomb’s Answer to Temporary Shelter) in Warren, the lunch hour was extra busy, and Major Kevin Van Zee said the warming center would stay open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. through Friday.
“When there’s a life-threatening situation like the weather right now, you do what you can to help people,” he said.
Sunday’s snowfall, which reached nearly 16 inches in some parts of Metro Detroit, contributed to the deaths of three local residents, said authorities.
The snow also caused numerous fender-benders — including a U-Haul that plowed into a downtown Detroit post office — collapsed a former bar in Lake Orion, delayed or canceled 100 flights at Detroit Metropolitan Airport and caused the pipes to burst in the Frank Murphy Hall of Justice.
In other parts of the state, two other people died from weather-related accidents while an Amtrak train traveling from Pontiac to Chicago was delayed for eight hours because of engine problems caused by the snow.
The deep freeze was expected to break records. The record for today is 7 degrees below zero, set in 1924.
The normal low for the date is 20 degrees.
It will remain bitterly cold tonight, with the low expected to be 3 degrees below zero, said Rachel Kulik, a meteorologist at the weather service station in White Lake Township.
The weather will eventually return to normal Friday with highs in the 30s, she said.
“We’re expecting wind speeds of up to 30 mph” Monday night, she said, “which will make the wind chill factor bottom out at about minus 40 degrees.”
In the weather-related deaths, which occurred Sunday, all three involved the shoveling of snow, said authorities.
The victims were a 36-year-old Detroit man, a 56-year-old Pontiac woman and a 67-year-old Orion Township man with a history of hypertension.
Autopsies are pending on all three, said the Oakland County Medical Examiner’s Office.
As for flights, Detroit Metropolitan Airport continued to experience delays Monday but the reopening of a runway was alleviating the problem, said airport spokesman Mike Conway.
The runway had been closed because of FAA lighting problems, he said.
“We’re doing better today than we were on Sunday,” he said.
On the roads, the Michigan State Police post in Oak Park responded to 100 traffic crashes from midnight Saturday through Monday afternoon, it reported.
It also handled 95 other calls for service, including road runoffs, car assists and other traffic policing calls.
AAA Michigan, which called in extra staff, handled 2,200 calls from distressed drivers, said spokeswoman Nancy Cain.
Most of the calls handled by the agency’s trucks and roadside assistance vehicles dealt with spinouts, dead batteries and cars in ditches, she said.
“We are very, very busy,” she said Monday.
As for the city of Detroit, new Mayor Mike Duggan said he was pleased with its progress in clearing city streets.
Efforts by 40 city trucks and three contractors to clear 1,880 miles of residential streets were improving by the hour, Duggan said during a Monday afternoon press conference.
“I feel good about where we are,” he said.
The mayor also said garbage pickup, delayed by the weather the last few days, will continue at all hours this week, he said.
“Don’t be surprised if we’re picking up trash at 2 or 3 in the morning,” he said.
Gov. Rick Snyder activated the state’s Emergency Operations Center, allowing the state to respond more quickly to requests for assistance from local governments.
During a tour Monday of the state Department of Transportation operations center in Detroit, Snyder received an update on efforts to clear streets.
The governor, who came across an accident on his way from Lansing to Detroit, cautioned residents that driving conditions were still dangerous.
He encouraged residents not to dwell outside even as students frolicked in the elements during their snow day.
“This isn’t the day to have kids go outside and build a snowman,” he said.
The Metro Detroit communities heaviest hit by the snow were along the northern reaches of the region.
The towns with the most snowfall, and their amounts, were Howell, 15.9 inches; Waterford Township, 13.5 inches, and Romulus, 10.6 inches.
Jay McMillan can barely find words to describe the shock he is in.
The Ferndale resident spent five weeks traveling through Thailand and Vietnam, and returned a few days ago to face the snowstorm and cold snap that walloped the region.
“I was joking with friends that I hadn’t worn long pants or a long-sleeve shirt since before Thanksgiving,” said McMillan, 55. “I feel like a cocoon right now.”
Staff Writers Charles E. Ramirez, Kim Kozlowski, Mike Martindale, Jim Lynch, Ursula Watson, Darren A. Nichols, Candice Williams, Jennifer Chambers, Tony Briscoe and Shawn D. Lewis contributed.