Storm leaves a mushy mess
SOUTHWEST MICHIGAN — Residents across southwest Michigan went to bed Sunday night with rainfall drumming against their windows and woke up Monday with what meteorologists estimate was between 5 to 6 inches of slushy snow piled on their homes, cars and roadways.
The National Weather Service issued a winter weather advisory through 1 p.m. Monday in northwest Indiana and southwest Michigan. Across Berrien and Cass counties, road crews dealt with fallen trees, busted phone lines, power outages and slick conditions on the roadways.
Michael Lewis, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Syracuse, Indiana, said the commute was indeed a messy one Monday morning, with weather conditions creating a particularly wet and heavy snow.
“It was a relatively warm temperature … as [the rain] changed from snow, it was a very dense, heavy snow and very slushy,” Lewis said. “A lot of the roadways that were covered with that were very slick.”
By Monday afternoon, Lewis said the snowfall was anticipated to diminish in intensity, but that more snow was in the forecast for Tuesday, Wednesday and possibly Thursday.
In Niles, schools were closed and some residents dealt with power outages after snow-heavy trees toppled onto power lines. Gregg Watson, superintendent for the utilities department, said there were two isolated areas in the city, where this occurred. He said crews were able to restore power for the majority of residents before noon. Those who see downed trees are advised to call the city at (269) 683-4700 extension 3061. For downed power lines, resident should call the Utility Service Desk at (269) 683-4700 ext. 1030.
Public Works Director Joe Ray said road crews started working to clear the streets at 5:30 a.m.
Ray said one of the biggest challenges to combating the snowfall was switching equipment from leaf blowing to snow plowing.
“The large leaf boxes must be removed and weight added to the trucks prior to being able to plow,” Ray said.
As the region braces for more snowfall this week, Ray advised all residents to move parked cars off the street and allow snow plows plenty of room.
Weather permitting, Ray said he anticipates being able to resume leaf collection. He asked residents to rake leaves to the curb, not to the street.
Buchanan residents and city officials faced similar conditions Monday, including school closures and some residents left without power. Bill Marx, the Buchanan city manager and police chief, said that the police department and public works met at 3:30 a.m. Monday to devise a plan to combat snowfall. By 4:15 a.m., crews were working to plow roads.
“The stuff was really heavy and wet,” Marx said. “It took a little bit of a struggle to get them open, but we were able to do that by about 8:30 a.m., 9 a.m. most of the roads were done.”
As of Monday afternoon, Marx said the western half of Buchanan, from Moccasin, was without power. The City Center, near Pears Mill on Oak Street, was opened to residents to allow them a warm place to go, where they could also charge their phones.
Buchanan officials also dealt with fallen trees collapsing under the heavy weight of the snow. Marx said about four trees had to be cleaned up. City officials also trimmed a number of trees that had low hanging branches due to the precipitation.
Marx advised Buchanan residents to stay away from downed power lines. Residents can report outages to IMP or call the city.
For those commuting throughout the week, Lewis advised residents to make sure their cars are prepared for snow conditions and to drive slowly and carefully.
“The biggest thing is that if you don’t have to go out, stay off the roads and let the road crews do their job,” Lewis said. “If you do, allow yourself plenty of time. Be very defensive in your driving. You are not driving for yourself, you are driving for every one that is out there.”
Dowagiac and Cass County residents were heavily impacted by the weather, which left many services closed, including Dowagiac schools, the Dowagiac District Library and the Cass County Council on Aging, due to poor road conditions that included heavy slush and downed trees and powerlines.
Many Cass County residents were also left without power Monday, according to Midwest Energy and Communications. The most heavily impacted areas included Vandalia, Niles, Jones, Dowagiac, Cassopolis, Marcellus and Edwardsburg. Initially, there were more than 2,100 outages, and 280 MEC consumers were still without power as of 4:15 p.m. Monday.
Dowagiac’s Director of Public Services Chad Tyrakowski said crews were out Monday to clear roadways of downed tree limbs and to work to restore power to those affected by the storm.
“Luckily, we were well prepared, with our vehicles prepped and fully stocked on salt for the season,” Tyrakowski said. “We are going to continue to work and maximize the resources we have available.”
Cass County Road Commission Managing Director Steve Lucas said the problems in Dowagiac caused by the snow were countywide. He said there were between 60 and 70 fallen trees reported due to the storm, adding that he had crews out throughout the day Monday working to clear the roads of slush and to remove the fallen trees from county roadways.
“Starting out this morning, there was a lot of really heavy, wet snow. It was hard to travel more than 25 to 30 miles per hour for most folks due to the slushy snow,” Lucas said. “We’ve been getting calls all day about downed trees. We have been working to get those taken care of.”
In such weather as was experienced Monday, both Tyrakowski and Lucas advised that drivers be aware of the weather and drive in a manner appropriate for the weather.
“You just have to slow down and allow yourself a lot of time,” Lucas said. “If you try to rush with the type of road conditions that we had this morning, you are more than likely going to end up having an accident. That wet heavy slush can pull your vehicle around and make you lose control pretty rapidly.”
Lucas also said that if someone comes across a downed tree or powerline to stay in their car and report it to Cass County Central Dispatch by calling (269) 445-2481. He said residents should not attempt to drive over obstructions in the road, but that they should drive around them if possible or seek an alternate route.
Tyrakowski agreed, saying that Dowagiac’s Public Services Department advised that residents only drive when absolutely necessary on Monday.
“Try to stay home if you can,” Tyrakowski said. “If you can’t, try to make sure your tires are in good condition and go as slow as you need to. If you do leave, make sure you wear warm clothes in case you do get stuck, and try to get home as soon as you can.”