Record-setting cold predicted for the region

Pedestrians and vehicles make their way through snowy streets on Evergreen in Southfield, January 28, 2019. ()

Add below-freezing temperatures this week that threaten to break at least one record more than 130 years old to the snow piling up.

Meteorologists warn to expect some of the coldest days of the year by Wednesday and Thursday, when a “dangerously cold arctic air mass” brings potentially record-breaking temperatures, the National Weather Service said in a weather blog.

The result of the air mass “is a persistent and gusty bitter cold westerly wind that will plague the area Tuesday afternoon through Friday morning with wind chills falling well below zero,” according to the weather service.

The weather outlook prompted communities such as Auburn Hills, Dearborn, Detroit and others to declare snow emergencies, and school districts including Ann Arbor Public Schools, Wayne-Westland Community Schools and Ypsilanti Community Schools to announce closings for Monday.

Wayne State University announced it was closing for night classes. 

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer closed all state offices in the Lower Peninsula shortly before 10 a.m., directing all non-essential state workers who had already driven in to head home.

“This is about keeping all Michiganders safe,” Whitmer said in a statement. “All motorists are encouraged to stay off of the roads. If you must be out, please drive safely in these dangerous weather conditions and be respectful of road crews working to clear snow and ice.”

Read more: 4-7 inches of snow expected Monday in Metro Detroit

The high on Monday will be 34 degrees with a wind chill of minus 3 degrees. When the low-pressure system departs, arctic air from Canada will take its place. Monday night will see a low of 11 degrees and Tuesday will reach a high of only 17 degrees.

Temperatures really take a dip then, down to minus 7 degrees overnight, possibly tying a record of minus 7 set in 1885.

Wednesday could be the coldest day of the year so far: The high is expected to reach minus 2 degrees and the low is predicted to drop to minus 13 degrees. Detroit is looking at a high of 2 degrees and a low of minus 7 degrees Thursday. Thursday’s historical low is minus 7 set back in 1920.

Furthermore, the wind chill may range between minus 35 degrees and minus 45 degrees early Wednesday and early Thursday morning, especially nearest the Ohio border, according to the National Weather Service. Cold winds can result in the body losing heat faster than normal, leading to hypothermia.

Meanwhile, commutes Monday night and Tuesday morning are expected to be difficult, with 5-7 inches of snow expected Monday in Oakland and Macomb and Livingston counties; 3-5 inches were expected in Wayne, Washtenaw and Monroe counties, according to National Weather Service maps.

“Plan on hazardous road conditions and slow travel,” a winter weather advisory urges motorists.

The snow is due to a strong low-pressure system moving through, National Weather Service meteorologist Sara Pampreen said.

“It’s winter. This happens,” she said.

The Michigan Capitol closed to the public early Monday, along with most legislative offices in Lansing, where Mayor Andy Schor declared a snow emergency prohibiting most travel on city streets.

Most state employees were sent home at around 10 a.m., but the state Emergency Operations Center remained open to monitor storm conditions.

There were already problems on the roads over the weekend, with several crashes reported in southeast Michigan on Sunday. Authorities in the Upper Peninsula closed M-28 on Sunday because of a large multi-vehicle crash and whiteout conditions, the Associated Press reported.

As snow falls, people wait at a bus stop on Mack Avenue in Detroit Monday afternoon.

In Detroit, 55 to 60 salt trucks will hit the roads in 12-hour shifts Monday morning shortly after 5 a.m. ahead of the expected 7 a.m. snowfall. The more than 600 miles of major thoroughfares will be a priority for the city, said Ron Brundidge, director of Detroit Public Works.

Should the city receive more than 6 inches, private contractors are on standby. Residents should remove vehicles from streets to allow for an open path wide enough for two-way traffic.

“We’re going to try to get as much snow removed from the streets as possible,” Brundidge said. “We’ll make as much of an effort as we can to mitigate the potential for refreezing.”

The Michigan Transportation Department contracts snow removal of expressways and Michigan highways to Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties, spokeswoman Diane Cross said. MDOT, however, is increasing its freeway courtesy patrol to five vehicles, which will drive along freeways to help drivers.

Craig Bryson, senior communication manager for Oakland County’s road commission, said its team is on-call 24/7. The commission will have 106 salt trucks and 18 pickups to help in subdivisions and on boulevard turnarounds. It also will have 19 road graders.

Each truck has a route that takes about two hours to clear on the 2,700 miles of country roads and 230 miles of state highways. Drivers work on 16-hour shifts, the state maximum, he said.

“Evening rush hour certainly will be (slow),” Bryson said. “Many of our accidents are because people are going too fast for the conditions. We implore people to slow down and don’t crowd the plow.”

David Knupp of Port Huron said the road conditions this week have been on his mind all day.

“I don’t like it,” said Knupp, who works for the United Automotive Workers and leaves at 3:30 a.m. to drive to Center Line. “I’m thinking about calling off. Thankfully, I’ve got some time to use.”

His niece Madison Hayward, 12, and Owen, 10, also had the snow on their minds: “I hope school is canceled,” Hayward said.

Carrie Mack’s children were hoping for a snow day, too, even if the 46-year-old Livonia healthcare worker wouldn’t be so lucky.

“I think it’s good,” she said. “They were out playing in the snow, making snowmen the other week. They want to be outside.”

Others just balked at the idea of more snow and cold. “I think the only thing to say is, ‘No thanks,’” said Victoria Mona, 26, of West Bloomfield. The real estate agent said she hopes to work from home on Monday, but she is dreading the subzero temperatures later in the week. “That’s going to be worse.”

Preparing for extreme cold 

Frostbite will be a concern and could set in after 20 to 30 minutes of exposure to the arctic air, Pampreen said.

Cross said drivers need to do their part to prepare for the conditions such as having a full tank of gas, checking the air in their tires and putting blankets in their vehicles.

“If you do break down, do stay in the car and stay buckled up where you’re protected,” she said. “Drivers should never ever get out of their vehicle unless the car is on fire.”

Detroit has four warming centers for those who need shelter during the cold weather open 24/7 unless otherwise noted:

Cass Community Social Services at 1534 Webb St. is open for parents and children from 4 p.m. to 8 a.m.

Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries at 2535 Third Ave. is open to men only

Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries at 3840 Fairview St. is open to women and children only

Lake Ridge Villages at 15941 Fairfield St. is open to all

Emergency transportation is available to Cass Community Social Services at (313) 424-2202 and Lake Ridge Villages at 313-778-0694.

Other school districts that have canceled classes Monday are: Brandon School District, Clintondale Community Schools, Eastpointe Community Schools, Fraser Public Schools, Garden City Public Schools, Hamtamck Public Schools, Lake Orion Community Schools, Lake Shore Public Schools, Lakeview Public Schools (Macomb), Livonia Public Schools, New Haven Community Schools, Oxford Communtiy Schools, Plymouth-Canton Community Schools, Redford Union School District, Richmond Community Schools, Romeo Community Schools, Utica Community Schools, Warren Consolidated Schools, West Bloomfield School District and Ypsilanti Community Schools

Check on school closings from WDIV-TV (Channel 4)

Lawrence Technological Unvieristy and Oakland University also have closed.

Friday is expected to be dry, with a high of 17 degrees and an overnight low of 8 degrees.

Saturday is expected to be sunny, warming up to 32. The snow could return with rain on Sunday, though temperatures are expected to rise to 42.

The next chance for relief arrives next weekend, the weather service blog said, with “near-normal temperatures” Saturday and “potentially above average” Sunday.