GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Slippery road conditions and reduced visibility due to blowing snow led to crashes on West Michigan roads Wednesday and Thursday, including at least one that was deadly.
On Thursday morning, the eastbound lanes of I-94 near the Kalamazoo-Van Buren county line were closed for several hours due to multiple semi-trucks that slid off the roadway. It’s unknown if there are any reports of injuries. The highway has since reopened.
CREWS WORK TO CLEAR SNOW-COVERED ROADS
Jerry Byrne with the Kent County Road Commission told News 8 Thursday morning that crews have salted the freeway system and now will be working to clear county roads.
“The goal today is to mechanically scrape off as much on the county system,” Byrne told News 8. “The crews were in at 4 a.m., so they are out on the county roads. It’s going to take a while to get through with reports from anywhere from 6 to 12 inches throughout the county.”
After most main roads have been clear, the road commission said crews will begin focusing on neighborhood and gravel roads.
“Out of the 2,000 miles of road, probably 800 or 900 miles of roads haven’t seen a truck yet because those are the subdivisions, gravel and rural roads,” said Bryne.
The road commission expects to start clearing those side streets sometime between Thursday and Friday afternoon.
“We have been at it around the clock since it started, and we will be at it until we are caught up,” said Andy Albertson, a KCRC driver. “Mother Nature has been fighting us a bit, but we are making process.”
When it comes to side streets, Bryne advises residents to move cars parked on the street to their driveways to help plow trucks.
“The goal of the day is to make one pass around those neighborhood streets,” Byrne said. “If those cars are out of the way, it’s going to give you a better roadway surface to get through.”
SEVERAL CRASHES REPORTED WEDNESDAY
Just after 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, emergency crews were sent to southbound US-131 at Post Drive (exit 95) for a multivehicle crash.
Michigan State Police closed the southbound lanes while they investigated and removed the vehicles involved. The lanes have since reopened.
It is unknown exactly how many vehicles were involved.
State police said that there have been no injuries reported.
Police are reminding drivers to clear off their tail lights, turn on their headlights and slow down.
In Walker, one person was killed in a crash near the intersection of Wilson Avenue and Drakewood Lane SW around 1:45 p.m. Wednesday. Walker police say that a southbound driver lost control because of the bad weather, crossed the centerline and hit a northbound semi-truck. The driver of the southbound car, a 38-year-old from Newaygo County, died at the scene. That person’s name wasn’t immediately released.
Early Wednesday afternoon, Michigan State Police said they were responding to a multi-vehicle crash on northbound US-131 at 100th Street. MSP said a semi-truck jackknifed under the 100th Street overpass while trying to slow for a crash ahead. That jackknife caused a chain reaction and 12 and 14 other vehicles crashed or slid off the road.
Multiple people were injured; most of those injuries were minor, but one was serious, authorities said.
The northbound lanes of the highway were closed for about three hours while emergency responders were on the scene.
STAY SAFE ON THE ROAD
Jerry Byrne with the Kent County Road Commission told News 8 Wednesday that the morning commute should be smooth but that he expected conditions to deteriorate throughout the day.
“With the intensity and the wind gusts that they are talking about, it’s going to be rough once it starts. People just need to be prepared to take extra time,” Byrne said. “It’s going to deteriorate very quickly.”
Those who venture out are reminded to turn on their headlights, clear all snow and ice from their vehicles and use caution. As temperatures drop, salt is less effective at melting snow.
Drivers can track the progress of the MDOT snowplows from the safety of home before hitting the road. Some plows are also equipped with cameras, allowing travelers to see the streets as they are cleared. The map is visible on the Mi Drive website.
The wintry weather could impact flights at the Gerald R. Ford International Airport. Passengers can check real-time flight information online before heading to the airport.