Archived Story

Cass County motorists could be ticketed

Published 9:27am Tuesday, January 28, 2014

For the second time this month, Cass County officials declared a snow emergency for the county, in response to the high winds, snowfall and single digit temperatures.

Cass County’s emergency response team issued a statement early Monday, urging residents to stay off county roads for non-emergency purposes until Wednesday. The decision was made following a night in which multiple vehicles were left stranded in the road after their drivers lost control.

“It was a real nightmare for the road commission,” said David Smith, Cass County’s emergency manager. “There was so many cars stuck that they weren’t able to accomplish much.”

Smith and other Cass County officials asked motorists to stay off the roads throughout the weekend after the winter storm moved into the region, dumping multiple feet of snow that was blown about by the wind. While there had been multiple instances of stranded cars over previous days, Smith said that his office was bombarded by calls Sunday night and early Monday morning.

“Dispatch was very busy, hanging up one call while picking up another,” he said. “Motorists kept calling, saying they were stuck and stranded.”

In order to assure the safety of county drivers and to help keep the roads clear for the road commission’s plows, officers with the Cass County Sheriff’s Office were told to issue tickets to any person traveling for non-emergency reasons, Smith said.

“The county declared a snow emergency during the blizzard that rocked the area earlier in the month, and citizens had mostly complied with their recommendations to stay off county roads, Smith said.

“The weather was so intense that people were staying home,” Smith said. “But this time, people are still getting out and trying to do their regular business.”

For crews with the Cass County Road Commission, the continuing traffic has only compounded the issues they’ve faced over the last several days.

“With more than 1,000 miles of road we take care of, we have to handle this one step at a time,” said Christopher Bolt, the road commission manager. “With the wind, it looks like we may not have cleared a road yet when we had actually been there earlier in the day.”

For the second time this month, the commission has thrown the bulk of its workforce toward its efforts, deploying more than 30 vehicles in its fleet, said Michel Harris, the commission’s director of operations.

“We’ve got anything that can push snow out pushing snow,” Harris said.

These massive deployments have quickly burned up a significant portion of the commission’s budget for this year, Bolt said. The organization has spent around $250,000 combating both winter storms this month, spending extra on fuel, maintenance, towing and overtime for crews.

In addition, the storms have worn down the commission’s drivers as well, who typically work 12-hour shifts during blizzards, the manager added.

“It’s been a constant beating of the drum this winter, and these firework events have taken their toll,” Bolt said.

As of Monday morning, the commission had run its trucks down 85 percent of the county’s primary roads, which crews give first priority to. However, many of the county’s secondary and back roads remain in poor shape, Harris said.

“We’re going to be battling this for quite a few more days,” he said. “This will probably be a problem we’ll have to deal with all week.”

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  • John Wolff

    It is sham that the road commission board did not put enough monies in reserve for such a weather situation we are having at this time. Why can’t we have an amount budgeted for such a crises. They tend to budget the lesser amount and then want more money for continued operation. Years back are road commission Director had always had a large reserve for Salt, Sand. I would think by now we should have learned to prepare for disasters that may accrue. We do live in Michigan were we can expect snow storms, tornadoes and such.

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