Brian McKinnon Jr. knocks icicles off his Lincoln Park home Thursday. Warm air is expected to bring rain over the weekend. (David Guralnick / The Detroit News)
An expected 60-degree rise in the temperature after a major snowfall and bone-chilling conditions in southeast Michigan may mean a new flurry of problems for Metro Detroit communities, homeowners and motorists.
Melting snow that refreezes will cause ice dams, the freeze-thaw cycle is expected to open mawing potholes in area roads and new rain on top of melting snow has officials working to keep streets clear of flooding that could be hazardous to drivers.
Warmer air moving into the region is expected to push temperatures into the low 40s and cause rain over the weekend, according to meteorologists at the National Weather Service station in White Lake Township. The warmer weather comes on the heels of a snow storm that dumped more than a foot on some parts of southeast Michigan and a Monday arctic blast that lingered into Thursday.
“The front will bring rain, perhaps freezing rain, but there’s not much chance of ice forming,” weather service meteorologist Matt Mosteiko said.
The rain Friday and Saturday is not expected to prompt flood watches or warnings in southeastern Michigan, according to the weather service. The melt-off should slow next week as temperatures will start out in the high 30s on Monday but slide to the mid-20s by Thursday.
“We’ll probably see about ½ inch of rain and about 1 inch of liquid from snow melt-off,” Mosteiko said. “It would take 2.5 inches of liquid to start to be a problem.”
The cycle of freezing and warmer temperatures has the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department on guard for water main breaks. The department provides water service to almost 4 million people in southeast Michigan communities.
“There’s really nothing we can do about that — it’s Mother Nature at work,” said Bill Johnson, a spokesman for the water utility.
Johnson said the department will have repair crews on standby to respond to breaks as quickly as possible. He said water customers can report breaks by calling its 24-hour hotline at (313) 267-7401.
Cold weather caused a water main break Wednesday evening on Trumbull Avenue near westbound Interstate 94, which caused water to partially flood the freeway.
Homeowners need to be on alert, too.
“This is perfect weather for ice dams,” said Glenn Haege, master handyman, host of the Handyman Show with Glenn Haege on WJR-AM (760) and a Detroit News Homestyle columnist. “One of my Haege-isms that I’ve been saying for 30 years is ‘Water always wins, whether its in the form of snow or rain.’ Ice dams are inevitable.”
Warm air inside your home leaks into the attic and warms the underside of the roof, causing snow and ice on the roof to melt. The melted water refreezes and forms an ice dam, which can damage the roof and result in water leaks inside the house, according to energystar.gov website.
James Bruner, owner of Bruner Plumbing and Heating in Detroit and president of the Michigan Plumbing and Contractors Association, said business has been brisk with many calling about busted pipes due to the frigid weather.
Lori Conarton, spokeswoman for the Insurance Institute of Michigan, said ice dams on the roof, leaky pipes and flooding inside a house are the biggest problems that surface when the weather warms up after a deep freeze.
“Homeowners need to know that flooding is not covered under a regular homeowner’s policy,” she said. “It’s available through the National Flood Insurance Program.”
Motorists should be on the lookout for slick conditions on snowy, unplowed or untreated roads caused by rain as well as standing water and potholes.
“Should the temperatures really warm up and flooding starts to happen, motorists are going to have to be careful in the same places they had to be careful (in the last few days): bridges, ramps and overpasses,” said Diane Cross, a spokeswoman for the Michigan Department of Transportation. “There could be standing water below them, too.”
MDOT crews will be working today and Saturday to keep storm drains on freeways clear so water can move off the pavement, hopefully, before it has a chance to freeze again, she said.
Some Detroit residents have grown weary of snow and ice-covered streets.
Sarah Gregory has been watching people get stuck in their cars near her house at Gunston Street and East Outer Drive all day.
“They’ve been digging people out,” she said of the neighbors. “I’ve been giving ’em my shovel and salt.”
The city has not plowed the side streets around the area, leaving the roads the worst she’s seen in the 30 years she has lived at the intersection.
“It’s not done, plain and simple,” she said. “They’re not doing what they’re supposed to do.”
John Roach, a spokesman for Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, said the city is responding to some reports about snow removal. He was unsure of how many complaints the city has gotten, but said “the number of verified complaints hasn’t been that large so far.” If a complaint is valid, the city will send out a plow, he said.
Contractors were instructed to clear a 10-foot path down each Detroit street and not curb to curb. People with issues should call (313) 224-3901.
The wild ride of temperatures make for teeth-jarring potholes, which crop up after freeze-thaw cycles and water seeps into cracks in concrete or asphalt. Falling temperatures freeze the water, which expands and forces the pavement upward. The process repeats until it creates a crater beneath the pavement, which crumbles due to traffic.
Road Commission for Oakland County spokesman Craig Bryson said potholes will likely be abundant. “We’ll patch them as we can,” he said.
Sal Conigliaro, public works director for Sterling Heights, said some places will see melt-off that could cause minor problems. His department has been salting major roads and have stopped even a few potholes that have formed.
““We plow from curb to curb to open up the catch basin,” Conigliaro said. “I think you’ve got to be ready for the unexpected. It will be more of a nuisance situation.”
Conigliaro said that there will be crews out in areas where flooding normally happens, but he is not expecting too many issues because the ground is still frozen.
Dearborn is also prepared for the change in weather. Mary Laundroche, the director of public information for the city, said “We’re doing our best to keep the roads clear” and that melting snow will slide into the catch basins.
“By keeping our streets clear, that’s the best that we can do to prevent things.” she said.
Staff writers Lauren Abdel-Razzaq, Darren A. Nichols and Candice Williams contributed.