2017-01-12 / Front Page

January can’t seem to make up its mind

By Patti Brandt Burgess & Amy Hubbell
Of The Enterprise staff

NO INJURIES resulted from this one-car rollover on M-204 west of Hoeft Road about 2:45 Tuesday. It was one of six weather-related traffic incidents reported to the county 911 dispatch center between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.NO INJURIES resulted from this one-car rollover on M-204 west of Hoeft Road about 2:45 Tuesday. It was one of six weather-related traffic incidents reported to the county 911 dispatch center between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.
John Friend, Empire Village’s superintendent of public works, sent out an ominous message first thing Wednesday morning.

“PLEASE USE EXTREME CAUTION ON VILLAGE STREETS!!!!” the emailed message said.

It’s a message that could easily have been sent to the entire county, as a snow and ice storm with high winds caused schools to delay opening yesterday.

“It was really bad,” Friend said. “This morning it was flat ice, which is not the same as icy roads. It’s melted all the snow and then freezed over. It’s very deceiving.”

Friend said that after seeing two people fall, he was even more concerned about the sidewalks than the roads.

It’s been a topsy-turvy month for weather in Leelanau County, with Mother Nature throwing her full arsenal at the peninsula.

And the month is not even half over.

Jan. 4 through Jan. 9 saw temperatures fall to 10 degrees or less for each overnight period.

That was bracketed by high daytime temperatures on Jan. 2 of 48 degrees and on Jan. 10 of 40.

With snow on Tuesday turning to rain as temperatures rose to 40 degrees — and then to ice early Wednesday morning as temperatures dropped — dispatchers, tow trucks and emergency workers were kept busy. At least six vehicles ended up in a ditch or were involved in rollover accidents during the two-day period.

Knowing the forecast called for rain, Road Commission crews sprang into action Tuesday afternoon.

“Our guys were working at a fevered pitch trying to peel the snow off the roads before the rain,” Road Commission Manager Dan Wagner said. “We knew it was going to freeze and we’d have a concrete-like mess.”

Several second-shift drivers came in early and day crews stayed on late to clear the roads.

The rapid increase in temperatures coupled with an unusual January rain caused problems on Maple City Road south of East Valley Road.

Water of six to 12 inches in depth covered several spots were reported to the Road Commission.

“One of our crew took a shovel and cleared some ice that kept the water from draining off,” Wagner said. “It was an easy fix.”

Leelanau County got off easy compared to other areas in northwest Michigan.

“I spoke with a friend of mine in Harbor Springs … he had an inch of ice on the road in front of his house,” Wagner said. “The weather actually helped. That inch or so of snow after the rain, provided some traction for drivers.”

Much to the chagrin of most county students, the anticipated “snow/ice” day they had anticipated turned out to be a two-hour delay. Suttons Bay and Leelanau Montessori were the only schools closed yesterday.

At the Northwest Michigan Horticultural Research Center in Bingham Township, 2 inches of snow and rain were measured on both Monday and Tuesday.

Friend said the large amount of rain along with the fact that temperatures dropped very quickly, was the culprit.

“It didn’t give the roads a chance to drain — that was part of the problem,” he said.

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