Winter's wallop intercepts Detroiters' Super Bowl plans

Christine MacDonald, Jennifer Chambers and Francis X. Donnelly
The Detroit News

A Sunday snowstorm dumped up to 14 inches of snow across the region, prompting school closings and snow emergencies, putting a dent in treks to local bars for the Super Bowl and setting the stage for a messy morning commute.

It's been a decade since one storm dumped more than 12 inches of snow on Detroit, according to the National Weather Service's Dan Thompson. Residents last dug out from more than a foot on Jan. 23, 2005.

Some of the heaviest accumulations were near the Ohio border, and the storm was not predicted to end until 8 a.m.

"It will be hard for (plows) to keep up so I think it will be pretty rough," Thompson said of the Monday morning road conditions.

At least 143 south and west Michigan school districts announced they were canceling Monday's classes, including Detroit Public Schools. Rob Glass, superintendent of the Bloomfield Hills Public School District, said the snowfall and cold closing an easy decision. He and other area superintendents spoke by conference call just before 4 p.m. Sunday to make the decision.

"This is one where we have a lot of evidence. It's really coming down," Glass said Sunday. "I wanted to do it one time — make it through the year without a snow day. I thought we were going to to do it. It's fun for students, but it's disruptive to school."

The city of Sterling Heights said non-emergency facilities would open at 11 a.m., 2 1/2 hours later than normal Monday, including City Hall, the library, Parks and Recreation, senior citizen center and 41A District Court.

Snow totals rose to the double digits across the region after 9 p.m. after a steady pace that began early Sunday. Ida in Monroe County had 14 inches; Center Line and Roseville, about 13 inches each; Ann Arbor, 11.3 inches; Mount Clemens, 11 inches; Garden City, 10.8 inches; Detroit, 10 inches; Saline, 10 inches. Other communities such as Westland saw 9 inches; Novi, 9.3 inches; Rochester and Howell, 7 inches each by 9 p.m., according to the National Weather Service.

The weather service reported 1 foot of new snow by Sunday evening in Schoolcraft, south of Kalamazoo. It said 9 inches fell in Jackson County.

The storm's weekend timing helped law enforcement, who reported the accumulating snow didn't cause more accidents. Most drivers seemed to stay off the roads, possibly getting ready for the Super Bowl, said Michigan State Police Lt. Michael Shaw.

By Sunday night, the weather had contributed to several crashes and disabled vehicles on Interstate 96 and Interstate 94 in Metro Detroit, according to the Michigan Department of Transportation. At 9 p.m., disabled vehicles led to the closing of the I-96 ramp to Interstate 275 and the M-14 ramp to I-275, according to MDOT's Twitter page.

Inside, some area bars reported few Super Bowl customers. Many of the tables at 24 Seconds, a sports bar in Berkley, were empty shortly before the game's start.

"It's not really good right now in here. Most people in here are regulars and probably walked up," said owner Bob Bronstein.

Andrew Quintano, manager of a Royal Oak pizzeria, was seeing brisk business for deliveries.

"I have every employee I've got here," said Quintano at the Green Lantern. The 20 employees will help him meet the demand for 100 pizzas an hour the restaurant expected to make for snowed-in sports fans.

At the Plush Pocket Sports Bar in Warren, a smaller-than-expected crowd also awaited the beginning of the Super Bowl.

Charles Little said he lives close to the bar so he didn't mind making the slow commute.

"It's better in a crowd," he said about the big football game.

It was a longer drive for his friend, Steve Vincent of Troy, but Vincent said he had prepared himself for days like today. He recently bought snow tires for his pickup.

"You could tell who didn't have them. They were stuck on the road," Vincent said about other motorists.

Plush Pocket was trying to entice the weather-weary by offering drinks and food for half-price.

Detroit Metro Airport saw significant slowdowns, where dozens of flight were canceled or delayed from the weather or delays at other airports, according to its website. Only two of the airport's four runways were in use as of 2:30 p.m. Sunday because of the heavy snow accumulation, said Detroit Metro spokesman Michael Conway Sunday.

At least 367 departing flights were canceled and many more delayed Sunday at Detroit Metropolitan Airport.

"We find it more efficient to just keep two open," Conway said.

There were at least 10 canceled departures at Gerald Ford International Airport near Grand Rapids.

Blizzard conditions canceled more than 1,000 flights at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, which disrupted flights into Detroit.

The snowstorm hitting Metro Detroit was part of a bigger system affecting the Midwest. Blizzard conditions developed in Chicago, where more than a foot was expected by evening, as the system crept into Pennsylvania and western New York state.

Conditions were worse in Toledo, where Sunday afternoon the Lucas County sheriff restricted all county roadways, except the Ohio Turnpike, to emergency personnel, according to WTOL-TV.

Dozens of communities declared snow emergencies, from Berkley in Oakland County to Downriver's Trenton in Wayne County. Eastpointe had 3 inches before noon, which is the city's trigger for calling an emergency, said Bill Driskell, Eastpointe's assistant public information officer.

Diane Cross, spokeswoman with the Michigan Department of Transportation, said: "We are fortunate this happened on a Sunday."

Detroit began salting major streets at 4 a.m. and later shifted to plowing. Private contractors will begin clearing all residential streets Monday.

By 9 p.m., Detroit trucks had started clearing streets near Campus Martius Park.

Through Friday, only about 18 inches of snow had fallen on Detroit this winter, compared to more than 55 inches over the same period a year ago. The average snowfall is just over 23 inches.

Drivers with Macomb and Oakland road commissions were on 16-hour shifts.

"We have the overnight shift with 50 trucks. They get started probably around 2 a.m. And then we will get every available truck on the road and ready for rush hour Monday morning," said Craig Bryson, a spokesman with the Road Commission for Oakland County.

Associated Press contributed.