Drivers are facing a slower commute Thursday despite crews being out all night working to clear roads from a storm that dumped nearly 10 inches of snow in some communities Wednesday through early Thursday.
Diane Cross, a spokesperson for MDOT, said all Metro Detroit roads were, in general, “passable” Thursday morning, and while there were scattered spinouts, no major shutdowns or accidents were reported. Barring an accident, motorists were not expected to have much of delay in their morning commute.
“Crews were out working all night, including our private contracts with counties,” said Cross. “There were a number of challenges Wednesday in the evening commute, which caused traffic backups.”
Cross said a large number of motorists may have decided to stay home Thursday or work from home, which has helped crews to do their job. She said motorists need to clear off all their windows and roofs to ensure visibility before becoming part of traffic. She cautioned that just because a salt truck has been seen on a road doesn’t mean motorists don’t need to slow down.
“Salting doesn’t work in all temperatures, so roads will still be slick. Motorists need to keep both hands on the (steering) wheel and eyes on the road and move over for accidents, emergency vehicles including tow trucks. And especially give large semi-trailer trucks plenty of room before moving in a lane in front of them. Trucks, with their weight, need much more space to stop or they can jackknife and cause more problems.”
After the heaviest snowfall of the season snarled traffic on area roadways and prompted dozens of school closures, Metro Detroit can expect a brief respite then another wintry tweak to end the work week.
Sara Pampreen, meteorologist at the National Weather Service in White Lake Township, said Thursday the region was expected to be “dry with no new precipitation, but another half-inch or more of snow is expected on Friday.”
A high of 20 degrees was forecast for Thursday.
Tiffany Crawford, press secretary with the Detroit Department of Public Works, said Thursday morning the city received between 6 and 7 inches total snowfall and focused attention on salting and plowing major roadways. Once the 6-inch depth was determined, the city contacted private contractors about 4 a.m. Thursday to begin plowing 2,200 miles of residential streets.
The DPW has been focusing its efforts on 680 miles of major roadways, which were about 70 percent cleared as of 5 a.m., Crawford said.
“Crews have been instructed to get every residential street as well but can’t predict when that will be completed,” she said. Complicating matters, she continued, is public notifications went out late and many residents don’t have access to driveways and left their vehicles parked on the street.
“We have issued a couple releases asking vehicle owners to move them if at all possible,” Crawford said. “Plows will work around them but no one wants to get plowed in.”
In Oakland County, which recorded more snowfall than many Metro Detroit communities, plows had been out throughout the night working on nearly 3,000 miles of roadway but “still have a lot of work to do,” Road Commission of Oakland County Craig Bryson said Thursday morning.
The Road Commission handles all state trunk lines, freeways and ramps within the county under contract with the state Michigan Department of Transportation.
“It’s going well considering we received more snow than initially forecast,” said Bryson.
Private contractors were brought in about midnight to help on subdivisions and back roads but Bryson said it will likely be “two to three days” before all roads get attention.
Overnight snowfalls across Metro Detroit and beyond were generally between 6 inches to a maximum of “about 10 inches” recorded in White Lake Township, she said.
Wyandotte in Wayne County reported 6.5 inches while Utica in Macomb County saw 9 inches of snow. Birch Run ended up with just over 9 inches of snow, in Lake Orion, 8.1, 8 in Rochester, 7.3 in Wixom, 6 in Ann Arbor, 5.7 in Livonia, 5 in Ypsilanti and 4.6 in Garden City.
The mercury should top out around 20 degrees Thursday before plunging into the teens under partly cloudy skies. Winds could reach up to 11 mph but there is only a 20 percent chance of light snow showers.
A half-inch to an inch of snow should seem like a non-event compared to Wednesday when snow spreading over the region seemed to those shoveling out as if it would never end.
After years of surviving snow storms in Michigan, some locals were not worried about the snow.
“I’m used to this,” said Krystal Green, 63, of Oak Park. “I’m just not going to go out.”
Accumulation Friday would be at least the third batch of snow to coat the region since Monday.
Wednesday’s storm quickly moved through southeast Michigan around rush hour and dropped plenty of the white stuff.
Some Metro Detroiters used to winter’s fickle nature were unfazed Wednesday.
“You don’t know how long this is going to last,” Josephine Johnson, 79, of Oak Park said after getting gas from the BP station on Nine Mile. “But just in case I have to go somewhere, I have gas.”
Detroit Metro Airport had about 18 canceled flights and 278 delayed, according to flightaware.com.
Detroit’s public schools closed two hours early for the day Wednesday. Officials there and in at least 56 other districts in Wayne, Oakland, Macomb and Livingston counties were closed Thursday.
In addition to Detroit’s school district, others included Dearborn Public Schools, Farmington Public Schools, Romeo Community Schools and Howell Public Schools. The After School Recreation Program operated by the Detroit Recreation Department at nine district schools also were canceled for Thursday.
The city said its Department of Transportation was expected to run its full fleet of regularly scheduled buses, although customers should expect some delays.
A number of communities, including Oak Park, Highland Park, Dearborn, Ferndale, Auburn Hills and Sterling Heights, declared snow emergencies Wednesday, which required people to move their parked cars from the street for snow plows.
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Roads crews also were on high alert.
Detroit Department of Public Works Director Ron Brundidge said the department started deploying workers at 11 a.m. Wednesday.
Detroit Public Works plows 673 miles of major roads. The city has 10 new trucks that can hold 15 tons of salt at a time, but that usually gets a driver a mile and half of coverage.
The city said Wednesday evening that contractors were slated to begin plowing all residential streets by 4 a.m. Thursday. The contractors have 24 hours to plow 1,884 miles of residential streets, according to officials.
“Residents are asked to avoid on-street parking in residential areas, if at all possible, until contractors have completed their work to avoid being plowed in or hindering the work of plow drivers,” officials said in a statement.
Traffic on area freeways moved slowly as snow and ice coated the roads around rush hour. MDOT’s tweets alerted to crash after crash or disabled vehicles on most local freeways.
Some people were out Wednesday preparing for the storm.
“It’s about to get really cold, really fast so I went to Meijer and got some extra heaters and some medicine because you gotta be prepared this time of year,” said Darius Johnson, 46, of Detroit while at the Sunoco on Glynn and Rosa Parks Boulevard.
Deshawna Dorsey of Detroit wasn’t worried. “We have to be used to it by now living in Michigan and at least we’re having a bright Christmas,” Dorsey said. “Usually, it’s gray and gloomy throughout the days.”
Saturday should be dry and warm, with a high of 29 and a low of 22.
Snow showers are possible on Sunday, but much of the day could be spent near or above the freezing point. The high could reach 38 degrees, and a low of 28 degrees is expected, the National Weather Service said.
The Associated Press and Detroit News Staff Writers Mark Hicks and Mike Martindale contributed to this report.