BY TAMMY STABLES BATTAGLIA
FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER
Winter storm warnings are over, as metro Detroiters dig out from the weather system that dropped 8 to 10 inches of snow across the region, closing hundreds of schools and creating commuter woes to the area’s roadways.
But while children don their mittens and scarves to drag sleds to the nearest hill, winds picking up to 30 m.p.h. today will send wind chill temperatures into the teens across the region.
“That will keep the roads snow-covered and keep localized visibilities low,” National Weather Service meteorologist Steve Freitag said. “But certainly not extensive enough to cause an advisory. Of course everyone who’s plowed their driveway, unfortunately, some snow will blow back on them.”
Trooper Aric Dowling at the Michigan State Police Detroit Post said the area’s roadways are a mess, but there were no reports of fatal accidents.
“The roads are actually worse now than they were yesterday because they’re not plowed,” he said just after 7 a.m. “There are crashes all over the place now.”
Despite the fender benders, no highways were reported closed, he said.
But while we think we have it bad, areas out east still have about 2 feet of snow on the ground and another 10 inches predicted in some spots, such as Washington, D.C.
Detroit Metro Airport spokesman Scott Wintner said all runways are clear here, but the East Coast’s snow woes are causing major air traffic delays.
“We’re fine,” Wintner said. “The issue is the East Coast isn’t. So if you’re headed east today, you may not actually be headed east today.
Continental Airlines, with a hub in Newark, N.J., has canceled most flights along the East Coast, he said. Other airlines have also canceled flights. But most are working with air travelers on rebooking, Wintner said.
“(Typically) if you sneeze wrong, they charge you a penalty,” he said. “Indications are from most airlines today, if you need to make a change, they’ll help re-accommodate you and make sure you can to where you need to go.”
Wayne County has 100 snowplows out today working in pairs, focusing first on interstates and major roadways like Telegraph and Grand River Avenue, Michael Rogers, director of the Roads Division of the Wayne County Department of Public Services, said this morning. After a break from 11 p.m. Tuesday to 3 a.m. today, the drivers have been going at it since then, he said.
“They’re still out and we’re planning on keeping them there until we can get this all cleared out,” Rogers said. Their goal: to have roads totally clear by the afternoon rush hour, he added.
AAA estimated the agency received 2,800 calls for emergency assistance in metro Detroit on Tuesday.
The snow brought metro Detroit closer to the seasonal average snowfall for today of 29.6 inches. With 8.5 inches of snow on the ground at 7 a.m. today, total snowfall for the year is at 27.4 inches, about two inches short of average.
“Last year at this time we had 49.3 inches, but we’re running about half of what we had last year so that’s a good thing,” National Weather Service meteorologist Karen Clark said this morning.
The First School Closings alert system, powered by the Free Press and WWJ-TV, had 490 schools closed across the region, including the Detroit Public Schools.
High temperatures are expected to stay in the 20s through Sunday, with lows in the teens. A weak clipper will move through Saturday and Sunday, bringing with it a 30% chance of snow with accumulations of an inch or less, Clark said.
“There’s nothing really in sight right now,” Clark said. “The next seven days look fairly quiet at this point.”
The storm poses an extra problem for Michigan school districts. Today was supposed to be Count Day, one of two days during the school year in which student enrollment is gathered to determine how much state aid districts receive. But Jan Ellis, spokeswoman for the Michigan Department of Education, said on Tuesday the department has granted waivers that allow districts that are closed today to take their enrollment count on the next day school is in session, most likely Thursday.