Icy, wintry mix prompts power outages, flooding

Charles E. Ramirez
The Detroit News
The hazardous mix is likely to remain through Wednesday, the National Weather Service says.

A winter storm continued to pummel the state Tuesday, leading to icy commutes, flooded roads, power outages and canceled flights.

Road conditions led to a driver on Interstate 696 sliding into a Michigan State Police trooper's patrol vehicle. Officials said the crash happened at about 1:20 p.m. on I-696 near the city of Novi.

A sergeant was doing paperwork in his patrol car, which was parked in the center median when a motorist crashed into him. Both the sergeant and the driver of the other vehicle were taken to hospitals, police said.

The trooper sustained minor injuries and it wasn't clear how severe the other driver's injuries were, they said.

The Great Lakes region should brace for an extended round of damaging weather: The hazardous mix is likely to remain through Wednesday, the National Weather Service says. Snow, sleet, freezing rain and high winds are in the mix.

Consumers Energy reported Tuesday morning that about 7,500 of its customers were without power. However, more than 99.5 percent of the Jackson-based electric and natural gas utility's customers had electricity. 

In addition, DTE Energy said it had about 20,000 customers without power as of 11:30 a.m. because the storm downed more than 175 power lines. The company has about 2.2 million customers scattered across the region.

A downed power line closed the northbound Interstate 275 ramp at I-94 for 2½ hours during the morning commute. according to state police.

Flooding that closed all lanes northbound I-75 at 8 Mile has dissipated as has flooding along WB I-04 and I-696.

Through an icy rush hour, freeways were clogged with crashes. Michigan State Police reported 20 crashes on the freeway system as of the 7 a.m. hour.

Commuting by air was also difficult Tuesday. Flightaware.com showed more than 100 canceled flights at Detroit Metro Airport in Romulus. But as of 11:30 a.m. there were no delays, in or out.

A winter storm that began Monday will continue to affect southeast Michigan "... into Tuesday with extremely hazardous travel likely, due to snow- and ice-covered roads and blowing snow resulting in reductions in visibility," the National Weather Service tweeted. "Power outages and tree damage also possible where higher ice accumulations occur."

An ice storm warning remains until noon Tuesday for Lenawee and Monroe counties, including Adrian and Monroe.

In southeast Michigan, including Wayne, Macomb, Oakland Washtenaw, Shiawassee, Genesee and Lapeer, a winter weather advisory remains in effect until 3 p.m. Wednesday.

A winter storm warning remains in effect through Wednesday for Midland, Bay, Huron, Saginaw, Tuscola and Sanilac counties as well as parts of northern lower and central Michigan, including Manistee, Cadillac and Mount Pleasant.

In Metro Detroit, the storm is expected to dump 3 to 6 inches of snow by 3 p.m. Wednesday, with some ice accumulation as well. The peak of the storm will occur between noon and 6 a.m. Tuesday. Wind gusts of 30 to 40 mph are expected. 

Areas north of M-59 are expected to see more snow, while areas south can expect more freezing rain, the weather service said. 

"Travel will be difficult as roads will be snow covered or icy," it said. "Areas of blowing snow could significantly reduce visibility." 

That has prompted several school districts to close Tuesday, including Avondale, Farmington, Lake Orion Community, Pontiac, Rochester Community, Southfield, Walled Lake Consolidated and Waterford. 

In Metro Detroit, there will be a lull in the precipitation late Tuesday afternoon into early Tuesday evening, when temperatures warm into mid-30s to around 40 before dropping into the lower 20s Tuesday night, the weather service said. 

Scattered snow squalls late Tuesday night into Wednesday will affect and visibility. Sara Pampreen, a meteorologist with the White Lake Township office of the National Weather Service, said the area will dry out Wednesday and for most of the day Thursday, but another system will move into the region with the potential for snow.

Gale warnings are in effect across the eastern Great Lakes through Wednesday, including in the Thumb-area, where waves could crest at 13 feet. The greatest risk will occur at noon on Tuesday, the weather service forecast indicates. 

At the Mackinac Bridge, waves could reach up to 20 feet.

The Traverse City area and other parts of the northern Lower Peninsula such as Houghton and West Branch can expect 6-9 inches of snow, with some localized spots seeing up to 11 inches. Areas like Mount Pleasant could see between 5 and 8 inches. 

In the Upper Peninsula, residents can expect between 8 to 12 inches of accumulation in the east and 4 to 8 in the west. 

On the west side of the state, cities like Lansing and Jackson can expect 2 to 4 inches of accumulation between Monday night and Wednesday morning. Grand Rapids can expect 4 to 6 inches with 35 mph gusts. 

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has already declared a state of emergency in Grand Rapids over the weekend after the area grappled with mass power outages starting late last week.

Whitmer said the declaration gives Grand Rapids resources beyond what it has already received from state agencies, such as the Emergency Management Division of the state police. Ice and fierce winds last week in west Michigan knocked down power lines and tree limbs.

On Monday, Consumers Energy reported just a handful of customers without power. Last week, it had more than 230,000 customers in west Michigan in the dark after winter storms.

As of Feb. 10, Detroit's average monthly temperature has been 30.4 with total snowfall of four-tenths of an inch. The average monthly temperature for Detroit in February is about 35.2. Detroit's average monthly snowfall in February is about 10.4 inches. 

Extended forecast for Metro Detroit

Wednesday: Cloudy; high 31, low 25 

Thursday: Mostly cloudy; high 38, low 30 

Friday: Cloudy; high 37, low 22 

Saturday: Partly sunny; high 28, low 15

Sunday: Partly sunny; high 26

Source: National Weather Service

Twitter: @CharlesERamirez

Staff Writer Mark Hicks contributed