Bitter cold, snow lead to crashes, closures

Traffic

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Wednesday marked another day of blowing snow and whiteout conditions. 

There were intermittent highway closures all over West Michigan throughout the day, generally due to crashes. Follow the Michigan Department of Transportation on Twitter for the latest closures in Southwest and West Michigan.

The bitter cold temperatures also made road clearing more difficult for crews across the region. The Newaygo County Road Commission said it was no longer using wing blades on its plows because the extreme temperatures made it difficult to lift the blade after scraping streets. The road commission said sand spreaders were also having hydraulic issues and the sand-salt mixture was “just plain freezing in the back of the truck and not coming out.”

In Cass County, whiteouts led to crashes. Sheriff Richard Behnke said stuck vehicles were blocking plows, making road-clearing and travel more difficult. 

“Vehicles with low ground clearance ‘will’ get stuck in the drifts and block traffic, and the frigid temperatures can produce frostbite in 10-15 minutes if exposed to the wind,” the sheriff warned in a news release.

Behnke and other authorities are asking everyone to stay home unless it’s necessary to travel. If you do have to head out, budget extra time for your trip, go slowly and at least triple the distance between you and the car in front of you.

>>Inside woodtv.com: What to do if you’re stuck after a crash

The National Weather has issued a Winter Storm Warning for most of the area until 1 p.m. Thursday for snow, blowing and drifting snow along with dangerously cold wind chills.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer declared a state of emergency for Michigan because of the bitterly cold temperatures expected in the next few days, and closed government offices through 10 p.m. Thursday. She also activated the state’s Emergency Operations Center, which coordinates responses among multiple agencies.

>>Inside woodtv.com: Traffic map | Interactive radar | Closings | Forecast

Drivers who venture out are reminded to turn on their headlights, clear all snow and ice from their vehicles, and stay focused. Michigan law prohibits drivers from “depositing” snow, ice or slush on roads and highways, which can pose a danger to other travelers.

Drivers can track the progress of MDOT snowplows from the safety of home before hitting the road. Some plows are also equipped with cameras, allowing visitors to see the roads as they are cleared. The map is visible on the Mi Drive website

Hundreds of schools, businesses and organizations were closed Wednesday due to the snow and dangerously cold temperatures. Many were closed through Thursday or even Friday.

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