Slippery streets = slow commute with rain, sleet, snow forecast

Published 1:00 am Tuesday, December 23, 2008

By By JESSICA SIEFF / Dowagiac Daily News
NILES – Freezing temperatures and soft, slippery snow can make for a deadly combination, turning roadways into sheets of ice.
Motorists were forced to slow down Monday following the winter storm that swept through the area over the weekend with blizzard conditions and dropped a reported six inches of snow in some areas.
By mid-afternoon Monday, Neil Coulston, public works director, said crews that had been working throughout the day would have city streets plowed by evening.
Crews were sent back to the roads early Tuesday morning "to clean municipal parking lots, downtown streets (including the ridges), bridge sidewalks and will also be doing additional cleanup work on other city streets," Coulston said.
Deputies with the Berrien County Sheriff's Department were kept busy Sunday and into Monday following a 100-car pile-up outside of Stevensville, killing one.
Sgt. Steve Campbell said deputies were also "pretty busy" with vehicles that had slid off icy roadways and into ditches.
Asked if the storm created conditions that drivers should be especially cautious of, Campbell said, "That's going to be the entire season that motorists need to slow down."
According to Coulston, the extremely cold temperatures made clearing roadways more difficult.
"With the very cold temperatures it does no good to apply salt." Coulston said, calling it ineffective. "But crews have been applying sand with calcium chloride which helps with braking and acceleration at intersections."
Snow is forecast for today with freezing rain, sleet and snow developing this evening – sure to create a harried commute for those venturing home for the holidays.
With that said, 34 counties throughout the state will see Michigan State Police troopers taking extra measures and putting in overtime in an effort to crack down on possible drunk driving.
As part of a Michigan Office of Highway Safety and Planning Drunk Driving Enforcement, the Michigan State Police said increased patrols began Dec. 19 and would continue through the New Year, ending on Jan. 4.
Authorities want to remind everyone of the importance of staying safe while having fun this holiday season.
"We encourage everyone to enjoy the holidays and designate a sober driver for this holiday season," said Niles Post Sgt. Michael Dawson.
It would seem that both law enforcement agencies and city workers have been battling their respective challenges out on the road.
"This has been a particularly difficult 'warm-up' to winter," Coulston said. "Dealing with heavier than normal snowfall amounts and colder than normal temperatures. We don't normally deal with this kind of weather until January."
He added that budget constraints – "worse than it has been in over 30 years" has only made things more challenging.
"Hopefully we'll get a break when January and February roll around."
With just a few days into winter, Mother Nature certainly seems to have done her share in providing plenty of reminders to motorists to be careful and slow it down.