Snow fall not as bad as predicted

Ian Thibodeau, Charles E. Ramirez, and Mark Hicks

The second major snowstorm of the season had more bark than bite.

Despite what looked like a massive storm due to low visibility from blowing snow that started around 7 p.m. Friday, Metro Detroit got hit with 2 to 3 inches of snow -- about half of what meteorologists predicted before the storm.

Most of the snow fell between 7 p.m. Friday and 7 a.m. Saturday.

Sara Schultz, meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said Michigan's thumb region saw around 4.5 inches. The weather service didn't expect much more precipitation Saturday, and called for a dry Sunday as temperatures begin to rise slightly.

Friday forecasts said accumulation could range from 1-2 inches near the Ohio border to almost six inches in the northern suburbs. The snow was predicted to become heavier by midnight Friday.

In some parts of southeast Michigan early Saturday, “we get an hour or two where we get close to an inch an hour,” said Steven Freitag, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service office in White Lake Township.

Motorists were warned to expect hazardous travel due to poor road conditions and limited visibility through the night, the service said.

“The amounts will be higher as you move up towards the Thumb,” said Deb Elliott, a meteorological technician with NWS.

The forecast prompted the city of Auburn Hills to declare a snow emergency Friday morning. The order will be in effect from midnight until further notice.

Under the snow emergency, motorists are forbidden to park vehicles on streets in residential neighborhoods after midnight. There will be no overnight parking allowed on Auburn Road in downtown Auburn Hills. Failure to comply will result in a ticket or the vehicle being towed.

As the snow fell Friday evening, traffic slowed on Interstate 96 in Wayne County.

The Michigan Department of Transportation reported a handful of crashes on that highway as well as I-75 and I-275.

Kaye Byrd, director of communications for the Wayne County Department of Public Service, said Saturday afternoon that all of the county's freeways had been cleared and additional work on entrance and exit ramps was in progress.

"We are continuing to work on the primary roads and expect rapid improvement due to the rising temperatures," Byrd said.

Sunday’s high could top out in the low 20s, but on Monday, the temperatures are not expected to rise above the upper teens.

“The arctic air is returning,” Freitag said. “It looks comparable to the one we just went through.”

Friday’s snow comes on the heels of one of the coldest days the area has had so far this winter.

Temperatures averaged a high of 17 degrees and a low of 5 degrees Thursday, both 19 degrees colder than normal for this time of year.

Detroit Metro Airport recorded a high of only 18 on Friday — exactly half the average for the date, weather service data shows. The low bottomed out at 5, or 19 degrees below normal.

A slight warm-up is on the horizon, though.

Forecasters say the region could see temperatures near the freezing mark by Wednesday.

Extended forecast

Saturday: Snow likely before noon, then rain, snow, and sleet likely between noon and 1 p.m., then rain likely after 1 p.m. Cloudy, with a high near 36. South wind 5 to 7 mph. Chance of precipitation is 60 percent. New snow and sleet accumulation of less than one inch possible.

Saturday night: Rain or freezing rain likely before 9 p.m., then rain, snow, freezing rain, and sleet likely between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m., then snow likely after 10 p.m. Cloudy, with a low around 18. Northwest wind 6 to 11 mph. Chance of precipitation is 60 percent. Little or no ice accumulation expected. New snow and sleet accumulation of less than a half inch possible.

Sunday: Partly sunny, with a high near 21. Northwest wind around 10 mph.

Sunday night: Partly cloudy, with a low around 3.

Monday: Sunny, with a high near 15.

Monday night: Mostly clear, with a low around 9.

Tuesday: Sunny, with a high near 26.

Tuesday night: Partly cloudy, with a low around 21.

Wednesday: Partly sunny, with a high near 33.

Wednesday night: Mostly cloudy, with a low around 25.

Thursday: A chance of rain and snow. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 34.

Source: National Weather Service