The Mackinac Bridge has reopened this evening for traffic after officials shut the bridge down earlier Friday afternoon because of perilous winter conditions.
The bridge authority still cautioned motorists approaching the bridge to slow their speeds to 20 mph and be prepared to stop. Bridge personnel have been stationed at both ends of the five-mile-span of the bridge to provide instructions to drivers.
The authority is also monitoring conditions at various points along the bridge. Bill Gnodtke, the chair of the Mackinac Bridge Authority, announced the bridge’s reopening.
White-out conditions caused by blowing snow are blamed for a 20-vehicle collision on an Upper Peninsula highway, and conditions on Beaver Island have been characterized as “nearly impassable.”
Mackinac County Sheriff Scott Strait says injuries from the chain-reaction crash in Moran Township are believed to be minor. He described the conditions as “just a mess” and says visibility was so poor that snowmobiles had to be used to get to the wreckage.
U.S. 2 is closed from Interstate 75 to M-77, west of St. Ignace and the Mackinac Bridge. Crews have plowed one lane of U.S. 2 near the crash site.
Strait is advising people to stay off the roads. He says a semi-truck ran into the rear of a patrol car earlier Friday on U.S. 2. The deputy was not injured.
Meanwhile, strong winds are expected to grip Metro Detroit throughout Friday, with gusts picking up to 35 mph, National Weather Service meteorologist Rachel Kulik said. Friday’s high reached 10 degrees, with the low dipping to 2 below zero.
Snow is also expected to begin later Friday, with 2 inches of accumulation by Saturday morning.
The bitter cold is supposed to make way for warmer conditions over the weekend.
“The high tomorrow is going to be about 22, and it’s going to be dry through Sunday morning,” Kulik said.
Snow will make a return, though, on Sunday.
“We have another snow system coming in Sunday afternoon,” Kulik said, adding that Sunday’s high is expected to reach 20 degrees. “Right now we’re expecting 2 to 3 inches with that system.”
Metro Detroit is expected to tally its snowiest January. The record, set in 1978, is 29.6 inches. As of Thursday, Metro Detroit had 29.1 inches of snow.
Elsewhere in the state, the National Weather Service said a winter storm warning went into effect at 7 a.m. Friday and extends through Saturday morning for western and southwestern Michigan. Snowfall is expected to range from four to eight inches, and amounts could be higher in some spots.
The weather service says travel conditions could become dangerous, with white-outs and blowing snow covering roads. The area under the warning includes Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Ludington and Muskegon.
Similar conditions are forecast in northern Michigan, with gale force winds Friday on northern Lake Michigan.
Justin Titus, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Marquette, said temperatures are expected to drop on Monday to 10 below without the wind chill.
But Titus said cold snap won’t likely break any records. The lowest temperature that region of the state felt was in 2009 when it was 20 below zero.
Staff Writer Leonard N. Fleming and the Associated Press contributed to this report.