Detroit activates snow emergency routes in storm preparation

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

Detroit — City officials say they are preparing for the worst and activating snow emergency routes at midnight as Detroit faces a potentially historic snowstorm.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said nearly 100 drivers alternate 12-hour shifts on the city's main roads early Wednesday as the region is expected to be hit with 11 to 15 inches of snowfall by Thursday evening.

"We know it's volatile and it wouldn't surprise me at all if we get the kind of snowstorm they're talking about and if it hits as predicted that most of us have never seen," Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said during a press update at Detroit Public Safety Headquarters Tuesday. "Get what you need, food, water, batteries, water and stay home for the next few days if possible."

In preparation, Detroit is activating emergency routes and asking that all vehicles be cleared from roadways beginning at midnight. There are 75 snow emergency routes on 673 miles of main roads. Those routes are identified with red and white signs.

Cars parked in emergency route paths will be ticketed or towed, Duggan said. Cars should also be cleared from residential streets if possible.

The city has five contractors standing by for a four-day job of clearing 2,000 miles of residential streets from Thursday through Sunday. 

"Based on the weather report we have right now, the plan is to send all our contractors out at 6 a.m. Thursday morning and (they are) going to go for 36 hours until Friday evening at 6 p.m.," Duggan said. "Then, at 6 a.m. Saturday, we're going to send them back a second time for another 36 hours to 6 p.m. Sunday. The city has never done double clearings of a snowstorm in residential neighborhoods."

City officials noted Monday that Detroit pays $620,000 per plow cycle. 

The mayor urged businesses not to plow parking lot snow into the streets or they will face $1,000 fines, "store it on your property or haul it away," he said. 

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Detroit Public Works Director Ron Brundidge has said the city has 30 fewer plow drivers than this time last year, but “we do feel confident that the 97 drivers that we have combined with the fact that we’re going to a 24-hour operation beginning Wednesday morning is going to allow us to go through and get all of the streets clear.”

"We'll start with salting and when the snow begins to accumulate we'll switch to plowing until the storm stops," Brundidge added. 

Detroit City Council President Mary Sheffield said district council members will be on standby to address any outstanding reports, power outages, or streets that were missed. 

Joe Musallam, vice president of storm response for DTE Energy, said 1,000 linemen and contractors are on standby in preparation.

"We've been monitoring this storm for several days and the good news is we think that it's mostly going to be light puffy snow, not heavy snow that's going to stick to the lines," Musallam said. "But just in case, we want to be prepared. We've activated our emergency response programs and we'll be monitoring this real-time along with the mayor, public works and city council."

Twitter: @SarahRahal_