Schools close ahead of storm that could dump 7 inches of snow

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

Southeast Michigan is bracing for a winter storm that has weakened but still could leave up to 6 inches of snow in some areas on Wednesday and up to 7 in the Thumb, complicating the morning and evening commutes.

At least 40 school districts across the region announced closures ahead of the expected storm. The National Weather Service issued a winter storm advisory, ratcheted down from a watch, for Livingston, Oakland, Macomb, Washtenaw, Wayne, Lenawee and Monroe counties starting at midnight tonight and ending at midnight Wednesday.

An advisory also covers areas in the Thumb, including Huron, Sanilac and St. Clair counties from 7 a.m. Wednesday until 4 a.m. Thursday. Another is for Tuscola, Shiawassee, Genesee and Lapeer from 7 a.m. until midnight Wednesday.

Totals could range from around 2 inches near Saginaw to 3-4 inches in Howell, 4-5 inches in Ann Arbor, 5-6 in Detroit and 6-7 in Port Huron, according to the weather service.

The amounts were downgraded from earlier forecasts since "the storm system is projected to be weaker than previous models were suggesting," said Cory Behnke, a meteorologist with the NWS station in White Lake Township.

Snowfall totals were expected to be lighter farther west, with about an inch near Grand Rapids and 2-3 inches closer to Lansing.

Allegan, Clinton, Barry, Eaton, Ingham, Ionia, Van Buren, Kalamazoo, Calhoun and Jackson counties are under a winter weather advisory until 7 p.m. Wednesday, the weather service said.

"Plan on snow covered roads with low visibility during the daytime hours of Wednesday. Anticipate slowing travel on area roads," the advisory read. "The conditions will be hazardous through the daytime hours of Wednesday, however conditions will be significantly more impacted during the afternoon and evening."

The heaviest snow closer to Metro Detroit was expected to start falling during the afternoon, Behnke said.

"Travel could be difficult," the advisory said. 

School districts across the region canceled classes for Wednesday, including Allen Park Public Schools, Anchor Bay, Ann Arbor Public Schools, Avondale, Berkley, Birmingham, Bloomfield Hills, Center Line, Clarkson Community, Clawson, Dearborn Heights District 7, Detroit Public Schools Community District, Eastpointe Community Schools, Farmington Public Schools, Ferndale, Garden City, Gibraltar, Grosse Ile Township, Harper Woods, Hazel Park, Howell, L'Anse Creuse, Lake Orion, Lincoln Park, Livonia, Melvindale-North Allen Park, Novi Community School District, Plymouth-Canton Community Schools, South Lyon, Royal Oak, Southfield, Taylor, Trenton, Troy, Utica Community Schools, Walled Lake Consolidated, Warren Consolidated, Waterford, Wayne-Westland, West Bloomfield, Woodhaven-Brownstown, Wyandotte and Ypsilanti.

Some cities declared snow emergencies ahead of the first flakes.

Garden City has one starting at 8 a.m. Wednesday. "Vehicles may not be put back in the street until the snow emergency has been cancelled," city officials said in a statement.

Auburn Hills' alert is effective at 3 p.m. Wednesday. Parking is prohibited on streets in residential neighborhoods to enable snow removal crews to clear roads. Vehicles parked on roadways may be ticketed or towed at the owner’s expense. 

Fraser's went into effect at 6 p.m. Tuesday, and the city asks that no vehicles park on the streets after 8 p.m. to allow crews to clear the roadways.

After the snow pushes out by late Wednesday, cold air settles in.

The thermometer is expected to hover in the 20s through Saturday, with lows in the teens. The average high this time of year is in the upper 30s.

On Sunday, the mercury should reach the mid-30s.

Extended forecast: Metro Detroit

Wednesday: Snow, high 32, low 22

Thursday: Mostly cloudy; high 27, low 17.

Friday: Mostly cloudy; high 28, low 17.

Saturday: Sunny; high 29, low 16.

Sunday: Partly sunny; high 34, low 25.

Source: National Weather Service