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Cold grips Detroit; temps on rise from -8

Derek Draplin, Holly Fournier and Candice Williams
The Detroit News

Temperatures bottomed out at 8 below zero in Detroit on Sunday morning, but a wind chill warning remained until noon today as temperatures were only to reach highs in the single digits today.

The National Weather Service called for highs of around 6 degrees.

"It's dangerous to be out there," National Weather Service meteorologist Brian Tilley said. "That's why we issued the wind chill warning to reflect that."

Overnight lows hit -11 in Flint, -13 in Alma and -9 in Ann Arbor.

In Northern Michigan, lows were far more extreme. Newberry bottomed out at -28 overnight, Houghton reached -25, Pellston -22, Grayling -21, Mackinac Island at -18.

On Saturday, snowy, icy and windy conditions gripped Michigan, snarling roadways, causing crashes and canceling events. Every region of the state was under some winter weather emergency, warning or advisory. There were blizzard conditions in the Upper Peninsula and snow squalls throughout the Lower Peninsula.

The Michigan State Police reported several stretches of highway were or would be closed Saturday in the Upper Peninsula because of white-out conditions, including parts of U.S. 41, U.S. 2 and M-28.

Multiple crashes involving dozens of cars and trucks twice forced the closure of U.S. 31 in Muskegon County on Saturday, though no serious injuries were reported. Driver Jerry Elliott told The Muskegon Chronicle that he attempted to slow down when he saw a pileup but clipped the vehicle in front of him and another motorist hit his car and sent him into a guardrail.

A portion of Interstate 196 in southwestern Michigan's Allegan County also was closed after two vehicles crashed in white-out conditions, The Grand Rapids Press reported. Near the Indiana border in Cass County, emergency officials pulled snow plows from the roadways and urged residents to stay off roads, some of which were impassable.

Meanwhile, the National Weather Service issued winter storm warnings for western Michigan and advisories for the central Lower Peninsula. Slick roads also caused numerous vehicle spinouts late Friday and Saturday on freeways in the Detroit, Flint, Lansing and Grand Rapids areas.

The dangerous cold canceled Saturday's planned polar plunge in the Detroit River and had already prompted the cancellation of other activities.

"We are extremely disappointed we had to cancel but the safety and wellness of participants is a priority for the Special Olympics," Aaron Mills, a spokesman for the organization said.

Although the plunge was canceled, Mills said the fundraiser was still being held at Milliken State Park, where the 517 registered participants could pick up their T-shirts and eat a warm meal, calling it the "no splash bash."

Skin unprotected against the worst cold for just 15 minutes could result in frostbite and prolonged exposure the cold could lead to death, authorities warned.

The Valentine's Day Cupid's Undies Run in Detroit still happened Saturday afternoon despite the weather conditions. Participants — many in their underwear or outlandish costumes — took to the streets for the Children's Tumor Foundation. Last year's run, when the high in Detroit was 30 degrees, raised more than $2.8 million. Similar runs will be held in more than three dozen U.S. cities.

Typically, the high in Detroit for Feb. 14 is about 32 degrees. The forecast for Saturday was for a high of 23 degrees, with a windchill of 8 degrees. The low Saturday night was expected to dip to minus 1 degree.

Detroit's record low for Feb. 15 is 10 below zero. The lowest high temperature on record for Feb. 15 is 6 degrees. Both records are at risk this weekend.

Meanwhile, polar plunge fundraisers for the Special Olympics were also scheduled Saturday in Sault Ste. Marie, Higgins Lake, Cheboygan and Grand Rapids, and in Ann Arbor Sunday.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources on Friday canceled a number of its state park events because of the weather. Some will still carry on, such as the Free Ice Fishing Derby on Saturday morning at Seven Lakes State Park in Holly.

"We are going to build a bonfire so people have a chance to warm up," said Jason Dunkel, a coordinator for the event. "We'll block off the picnic shelter with tarps and provide hot chocolate to the participants."

Dunkel said he didn't know if the cold weather would keep some away.

"They may make that decision when they wake up in the morning," he said.

In Northville, the Northville Downs and the Michigan Harness Horsemen's Association canceled Saturday's race card due to the extreme temperatures. Live racing will resume Feb. 20 and the Downs will still be open to cast races from around the country Saturday night.

Conditions aren't better elsewhere in the state.

A winter storm watch was in effect in the Grand Rapids area through Saturday evening.

Lansing police say two unidentified people died Saturday on U.S. 127. Investigators say they received reports of a vehicle driving the wrong way on the highway and then four vehicles involved in three separate wrecks.

In Traverse City, where the Winter Comedy Arts Festival and the North American Vasa ski race are being held this weekend, the National Weather Service issued a blizzard warning and winter storm warning, continuing through Saturday.

"Right now, we're having our event on Saturday as planned. We have dealt with cold before," North American Vasa President Mark Esper said Friday.

Motorists traveling through the region should brace for whiteouts from blowing snow, according to National Weather Service meteorologists in Gaylord. There will be "poor visibility and very cold temperatures with wind chill values of 20 to 35 below zero."

The Associated Press contributed.

Extended forecast

Sunday: Mostly sunny with a high of zero to 4. Wind chills around minus 28.

Sunday night: Mostly clear with lows around minus 8 to zero degrees.

Monday: Partly cloudy with a high of 9 to 11.

Monday night: Mostly cloudy with lows around 9 to 11.

Tuesday: Mostly cloudy with a chance of snow showers and highs of 21 to 27. Chance of snow 30 percent.

Tuesday night: Partly cloudy with lows around 1 to 7.