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Posted on Tue, Feb 1, 2011 : 3:17 p.m.

Ann Arbor area emergency responders prepare for blizzard; businesses advised to close if services aren't essential

By Cindy Heflin


A postal worker works to free a mail truck from the snow in this 2008 photo. A storm headed for Ann Arbor tonight could bring more than 12 inches, the National Weather Service says.

File photo

As a dangerous winter storm set its sights on the Ann Arbor area, emergency personnel are urging Washtenaw County residents to stay home tonight and Wednesday and advising businesses to close unless they provide a service that's critical to the community.

"Our advice for tonight and tomorrow is to close unless it is essential that they remain open. It's safer for their employees; it's safer for their customers; it's safer for the community," said Marc Breckenridge, director of the county's Emergency Operations Division.

The blizzard conditions are expected to include 10 to 15 inches of snow falling at a rate of 1-3 inches per hour, winds of 35 miles per hour and temperatures in the teens with wind-chill values near zero. That constitutes "a pretty serious forecast," he said.

The Emergency Management Division is responsible for monitoring conditions and developing and coordinating community response to emergencies. Breckenridge said the center will be manned 24 hours a day starting at about midnight tonight until the storm is over and residents are safe.


If residents stay off the roads so emergency responders don't have to deal with stranded motorists, their biggest worry becomes dealing with potential power outages caused by the storm, Breckenridge said.

"Young and middle-aged people can survive cold weather very well," he said, "but the very young and very old cannot." 

Storms and power outages can also be challenging for low-income residents, he said.

Though DTE Energy said today it was not anticipating widespread power outages as a result of the storm, Breckenridge said the combination of wind, snow and cold temperatures could stress power lines.

The agency will work with the Washtenaw County Red Cross to set up warming centers if they are needed, Breckenridge said.

Hospitals and health services were also making plans today to deal with the storm.

Joyce Williams, Huron Valley Ambulance spokeswoman, said employees are on standby and dispatch will have additional staff on tonight.

Williams said administrative staff members will have the option to take personal days, work from home or have flexible hours Wednesday and possibly Thursday.

“We don’t want employees driving their personal cars to come into work — it’s just not worth it,” she said.

The University of Michigan Hospital, C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital and Von Voigtlander Women’s Hospital will remain open — as will U-M's adult, pediatric and psychiatric emergency services, the Cardiovascular and Cancer Centers, and the Kellogg Eye Center.

Outpatient centers in Ann Arbor, Brighton, Canton, Chelsea, Dexter, Howell, Livonia, Saline and Ypsilanti also will remain open, U-M said in a press release.

According to the release, many employees are making special arrangements to be in-house or near the medical campus this evening and Wednesday to serve patient needs.

"We are preparing to provide accommodations (cots) and food to staff who serve extra hours due to the storm, and if needed, emergency transportation for essential staff who live in the immediate area," according to the release.

Patients with a scheduled appointment, procedure or operation for Wednesday should let the U-M Hospital know as soon as possible if they wish to cancel and reschedule, the release said.

At St. Joseph Mercy Hospital in Superior Township, officials have plans in place and are confident they will have enough staff to operate normally, said Pam Misener, direct of support services for the hospital and the incident commander when there is a disaster.

Some staff members are planning to stay at the hospital tonight so they won't have to drive in in the morning, she said.

"We've got staff who have called us today and said 'I work days, and I think it would be better if I could just find a place to stay at the hospital tonight.' So we're looking for empty beds we can give to staff," she said. "We have more staff asking us than we have beds."

The hospital is assigning sleeping rooms to various departments, she said, such as nursing, food service and pharmacy.

Misener said she is ready to meet the challenge posed by the storm and is eager to fill in where needed. "I actually find it kind of fun to work on these days," she said. "This is the time I get to bring my tennis shoes in ... and do whatever they tell me to do."

Meanwhile, area fire departments were also watching the storm. 

Robert Vogel, battalion chief for the Ann Arbor Fire Department, said officials were monitoring the weather and had made plans to put an additional truck with three firefighters in service if needed. Firefighters are most worried about any problems that might be caused by downed wires, he said.

Mostly, however, fire officials were taking a wait-and-see approach, he said. 

"I don't know," he said when asked whether he was worried about the storm. "You just never know. It could be real bad."

Ann Arbor Township Fire Chief Rick Ericson said as a precaution, the department will be double staffed through noon Wednesday.

"We're doing extra staffing ... just in case something actually happens," Ericson said.

But in Ypsilanti, Fire Capt. Michelle Stanbury said the department isn't taking any special steps to prepare for the possible storm.

"No extra staff on tonight," she said, adding that the department picked up extra salt and fuel for a snow blower.

Check for continued updates throughout the storm.'s Heather Lockwood contributed to this report. Contact Cindy Heflin at



Wed, Feb 2, 2011 : 9:50 a.m.

I wouldn't talk about "wimps" - these severe snow storms and blizzards are hazardous and particularly so to motorists and those who must work outdoors. There's an attitude (and that's all it is) that we must not show regard for natural conditions as when people refuse to evacuate in the face of floods and forest fires. This is posturing and isn't rational or prudent. Keepitbalanced points out that emergency workers are burdened and sometimes endangered with they have to aid people with such attitude (and bad judgement). Grocery stores had 60% above-normal sales Monday and nearly that Tuesday. I personally watched the check-out lines with grocery orders featuring multiple bottles of wine and lots of beer, snacks, etc. Overbuying milk and bread, etc. - just causes shortages and a lot must go to waste. Floors were wet, slippery and filthy from excess tracked-in snow. Baggers (many high school kids) worked hard & long out in the lots to keep grocery carts in supply inside the stores. Wind chill down near zero. So while prudent people stayed home (existing on prudently stocked foods), the frivolous call them "wimps" and cause unnecessary problems. Grocery chains ignored the storm, had no plan and stayed open; "assuming" that employees would be safe getting home in the middle of the storm in the wee hours of the morning. All businesses which stay open after declared weather emergencies should be heavily fined at state and federal levels for creating a public danger and work place dangers.


Wed, Feb 2, 2011 : 6:22 a.m.

City workers have sacrificied home life over work life to help keep the streets clear. It is their jobs, but they choose public over private because of the sense they feel. Give credit where credit is due.


Wed, Feb 2, 2011 : 5:41 a.m.

All the people at the grocery were smiling and laughing as they bought provisions. (I stocked up on chocolate.) I think there's something special about a nice big snowstorm....and the possibility of a day off...sleeping in. Going outdoors tomorrow to play with my Malamute in the snow! Hey, it's Michigan! Gotta love it!

Kai Petainen

Wed, Feb 2, 2011 : 4:53 a.m.

a portion of ann arbor has a powr outage. see dte map.


Wed, Feb 2, 2011 : 4:05 a.m.

Bless the homeless. I do hope that everyone is somewhere warm and safe right now.


Wed, Feb 2, 2011 : 2:23 a.m.

In a lawsuit happy society it is called risk management. Having buses out when a blizzard warning is up and an accident happens people will be lining up to file lawsuits. That is the difference bewteen then and now.

Fat Bill

Wed, Feb 2, 2011 : 2:10 a.m.

For all those who trekked to school, uphill both ways in 40 below weather with horizontal snow... Things have changed. A great many students, teachers, and administrators live out in the subdivisions away from town, and some of the grownups live in different towns altogether... the other factor is traffic. Busses can get around in pretty snowy conditions, but with all the other traffic, delays tend to last for hours, and kids waiting for busses are exposed to the weather. I, for one, think that there should be no snow days built into the schedule, every day missed in winter should be made up in the summer, teachers are paid for x number of teaching days and we should get what we pay for...


Wed, Feb 2, 2011 : 1:25 a.m.

The snow of 1978 was the last time The University of Michigan actually closed classes and they did it for two days. It literally hasn't happened since then. How can you justify calling people wimps? A blizzard like that has been unprecedented for nearly 35 years. I'm a student there and live off campus and will probably be forced to commute tomorrow morning so I can keep up in my rigorous course work (Assuming my classes aren't canceled). I have an average sedan with two-wheel drive. My commute will be dangerous, no ifs, ands, or buts about it. I think it's quite myopic for somebody to suggest that we should all willingly put ourselves and others at risk for the sake of not being seen as "wimpy". Limiting vehicle traffic on exceptionally dangerous roads is the best way to prevent unnecessary property damage, bodily injury, and even death.


Wed, Feb 2, 2011 : 1:25 a.m.

The roads will be plowed clear long before sundown tommorow, I agree no big deal here. I'm looking forward to shoveling some snow rather than the usual monotous winter workout.

Brian Kuehn

Wed, Feb 2, 2011 : 12:05 a.m.

@Angry Sasquatch: Thank you!


Wed, Feb 2, 2011 : midnight

Let us hope no power outages occur although that is a distinct posssibility with 40MPH winds.

Kai Petainen

Wed, Feb 2, 2011 : 12:07 a.m.

as the storm goes through, watch this... <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>

Calendar Girl

Tue, Feb 1, 2011 : 11:55 p.m.

Very cool Kai! We should probably close all the schools since with no power buses can't travel down roads with stop signs. We may all die!!

Kai Petainen

Wed, Feb 2, 2011 : 12:55 a.m.

ha. your reply to my comment was funny. i didn't mean what i wrote as a thing to panic about. i love the snow and i honestly love inclement weather (it's fun to photograph). people should just take their time and drive slow and be safe and not panic. my comment was just meant to be a small useless fact. down here in ann arbor, we usually don't see the northern lights, and so an event like this... if it wasn't for the storm, we'd probably see them.

Kai Petainen

Wed, Feb 2, 2011 : 12:04 a.m.

i love the snow. i'm from northern ontario, so we're used to snow. no need to panic. learn to enjoy the snow. the odds of at least 1 spot in the US getting hit an outage from the sun is decent. as a comparison, normally the odds of seeing northern lights, looks like this: VI. Geomagnetic Activity Probabilities A. Middle Latitudes Active 05/05/05 Minor storm 01/01/01 Major-severe storm 01/01/01 But this week, it'll look like this: VI. Geomagnetic Activity Probabilities 02 Feb-04 Feb A. Middle Latitudes Active 60/35/30 Minor storm 10/50/20 Major-severe storm 05/15/10

Kai Petainen

Tue, Feb 1, 2011 : 11:38 p.m.

Perhaps the odds are slim, but it's theoretically possible that a few outages could happen due to a coronal mass ejection that is heading our way. Most outages will be due to the storm, but it would be nice to know if a few outages were due to this event. But we won't be able to watch the Northern Lights in lower Michigan, as the storm will block our view... and it might hit in the afternoon. I'd write more, but the length of the comment is limited. =)

Kai Petainen

Tue, Feb 1, 2011 : 11:37 p.m.

I'm going to ski to work tomorrow. =)

Angry Sasquatch

Tue, Feb 1, 2011 : 11:35 p.m.

@ Sallyxyz, I never usually post in the comment section, but I do enjoy reading people's opinions. I notice you comment quite frequently and always have something negative to say. Sure this pending snow storm will cause many people to be inconvenienced and the road conditions won't be cleared to your standards, but there are also many good things to experience with this snow storm. Please lighten up with the negativity.

Calendar Girl

Wed, Feb 2, 2011 : 12:20 a.m.

LOL John B!! Keep it up AS! I'm not a person who likes to play in the snow but I know plenty of people do and they are sure to be quite happy. I hope that someday Sally can experience happiness.

John B.

Wed, Feb 2, 2011 : 12:01 a.m.

Oooh, be careful, AS. You have dared to speak the truth! ;-)


Tue, Feb 1, 2011 : 11:34 p.m.

@ javajolt1 And it was uphill both ways right? .Jan. 25 -26, 1978: 13.6 inches of snow. And that translated into waist deep snow? It certainly is possible in spots with the wind. But somewhat misleading since 13.6 is not even up to an adults knee. I have learned to be prepared for most contingencies. But being prepared does not translate into being a wimp. I have on too many occasions to count sat up in a tree bow hunting when the temp was in single digits and the wind chill well below zero. Wimp? I think not! Stupid? I now think so.

Calendar Girl

Tue, Feb 1, 2011 : 10:56 p.m.

Great news abc!! I don't feel like I lost at all. AAPS made the decision on their schedule and that is terrific! I was ready to wear my pjs inside out to help get them a snow day! My only problem is the panic I see surrounding weather and the disrespect given to those that have to make a difficult decision. There is NOTHING more important in the life of a child than education. Closing a school at the hint of a storm because parents complain that they aren't doing it soon enough is no reason to do so. To encourage that is a very sad lesson to teach our children. Congrats on the snow day!! Enjoy it!

Calendar Girl

Wed, Feb 2, 2011 : 12:45 a.m.

Michael O, I couldn't agree more! That's why I have not been comparing it to certain death for any and all that dare to venture outside. It's a warning not a portent to the end of the earth. There are also ozone action warnings in the summer. No one seems to worry about the fact that those are terrible on my asthma and I could very well die if I have an attack. Perhaps we should begin taking responsibility for ourselves and not assigning it to others. If it's too cold, hot, rainy or dangerous for me to send my child to school, I certainly won't wait for some administrator to tell me I can protect my child.

Michael O

Wed, Feb 2, 2011 : 12:24 a.m.

There's a reason why tornado warnings are implemented,along with severe thunderstorm warnings,flash flood advisories...even frost warnings,for us who want a few more weeks out of our impatiens...a blizzard warning is serious business,which this area hasn't seen in over 10 years.It's just to let people know that being outdoors is really not a good idea.nothing more.

Calendar Girl

Tue, Feb 1, 2011 : 11:52 p.m.

Thanks John B! This is the first time I've ever posted comments on a blog. I just couldn't stand all the complaining and telling people to drive on the roads and kill themself if they don't think it's bad. What?!? Who would ever wish that on someone? Most of my family are teachers so I'm all for snow days when they are necessary. I just don't want to see us raise a generation of adults who are afraid to leave the house because they never learned how to function in inclimate weather. Thanks for your support. Stay safe in the Snowpocalypse!!

John B.

Tue, Feb 1, 2011 : 11:46 p.m.

@Calendar Girl: Well-said (again). You will find that many folks do nothing but complain here. They complain if the AAPS or the AA City Council (or whomever) doesn't do something specific, but would still complain if the opposite occurred and they got exactly what they wanted. They typically never offer viable solutions to their 'complaints.' It's just a sad fact of life these days, I guess.

Calendar Girl

Tue, Feb 1, 2011 : 11:14 p.m.

Michael O I agree with the spirit of your comment. But my comment referred to what is important in the &quot;life&quot; of a child, not the afterlife. As I have not passed on yet, I can't speak to what it the most important thing in that instance. From what I hear from Christians it's nothing to fear at all but a glorious place, so according to that dogma it is nothing to be feared. Every storm, rain, snow, heat, sleet, hail, dust, wind, has killed someone. Why doesn't anyone complain that schools aren't closed when it's too hot? Heat kills plenty of people and many schools don't have air-conditioning.

Michael O

Tue, Feb 1, 2011 : 11:01 p.m.

&quot;nothing more important&quot;?...I think the actual life of the child is more important.The storm over us has killed people.


Tue, Feb 1, 2011 : 10:37 p.m.

Calendar Girl, If you think this storm is no big deal, they you drive a school bus tomorrow morning on the roads, picking up children who are waiting at bus stops in sub zero wind chills and blizzard conditions. Good luck. It is irresponsible for AAPS to wait until the storm starts. There is a huge storm heading this way. Take a look at the radar on For all of you who think this is no big deal, go ahead and drive around tomorrow. But don't expect any of the emergency workers or emergency vehicles to help pull you out of a ditch.

Calendar Girl

Wed, Feb 2, 2011 : 1:36 a.m.

I have NO DOUBT that our fine first-responders would help pull anyone out of a ditch, even someone that wishes others ill and thinks so poorly of them.

Matt Whale

Tue, Feb 1, 2011 : 10:36 p.m.

They just announced that St. Francis is closed tomorrow.

Urban Sombrero

Tue, Feb 1, 2011 : 10:33 p.m.

Well, I just got my auto call from AAPS. It's official! No school tomorrow! (Like there was any doubt.)

Matt Whale

Tue, Feb 1, 2011 : 10:31 p.m.

It's snowing out now. 12&quot; here we come.

Calendar Girl

Tue, Feb 1, 2011 : 10:28 p.m.

Good for AAPS for not closing schools just because there has been a forecast of snow. We haven't even gotten a flake and everyone thinks it's the end of the world. The National Weather Service has already reduced the amount of snow predicted and shortened the length of the &quot;blizzard watch&quot; by 12 hours. This snowfall won't even make our Top 10 of large snowfalls so why is everyone freaking out? Schools now close at the drop of a hat then parents complan when the days have to be made up and interfere with summer plans. We don't get snow days off from work or life so perhaps we need to teach our children not to be afraid of weather but learn to deal with it. After all, the point is to raise adults, not keep them children.

Monica R-W

Wed, Feb 2, 2011 : 3:50 a.m.

It is snowing now. And there are more concerns than kids missing a day from children on a school bus that possible could drive off the road due to the snow and ice, underneath. The safety of the children should come before a deciding now to snow day that can be made up at the end of the school year. AAPS should cancel school, under these conditions, period.

John B.

Tue, Feb 1, 2011 : 10:27 p.m.

AAPS is saying, and has been saying consistently for some time now, that they won't make a call before the storm actually begins (at the earliest). That would be at approx. 7 p.m. tonight. Personally, I'd say it's relatively safe to assume (at this point) that they will close for at least one day, beginning tomorrow - but it's not my decision, nor is it anyone else's on this comment board. I would also guess that some of the districts in the more outlying areas may close for two consecutive days, starting tomorrow, if the storm really turns out to be as severe as currently predicted. It's mainly an issue of buses on back roads....


Tue, Feb 1, 2011 : 10:24 p.m.

Annie, AAPS probably thinks that this major blizzard will &quot;miss&quot; AA, while it hammers Dexter and Plymouth tomorrow. How absurd not to close now. Just another example of how AAPS is managed.


Tue, Feb 1, 2011 : 10:20 p.m.

&quot;Plows and salt trucks were out in full force, just in case. The worst of the weather was still a full day away in Michigan, but 85 percent of Oakland County's fleet was already out salting roads in preparation for the 'death storm,' county Road Commission spokesman Craig Bryson said. 'We're trying to get hard pack off the roads before the big stuff comes,' he said. Cots were set up in the commission's garages so drivers could nap between making their runs. Just read this on Are Washtenaw County trucks out pre-salting roads?? I doubt it.


Wed, Feb 2, 2011 : 12:01 a.m.

John B. is correct!

John B.

Tue, Feb 1, 2011 : 10:29 p.m.

Yes, they were already out this afternoon. I saw them.


Tue, Feb 1, 2011 : 10:11 p.m.

I find it strange that Dexter, Plymouth, and Father Gabriel Richard are all announced as closed tomorrow, but AAPS doesn't. Is their policy always to wait? Seems silly to me, but I'm pretty sure it's safe to assume, if we get a foot of snow, AAPS will be closed.


Tue, Feb 1, 2011 : 10:01 p.m.

Still no closure announcement from AAPS. How ridiculous is that? What does it take for an announcement in a timely manner? I suppose they need to wait until 2 am when Washtenaw county is in the middle of a blizzard to make an obvious announcement. Thanks for the pro-active approach to the safety of children, AAPS. WCC and EMU have both cancelled classes for tomorrow and the public schools have not made any announcement???? Oh, that's right. This monster storm might take a last minute turn north or south....sure, take a look at and see how likely that is. AAPS is just unbelievable. Very poor leadership.


Tue, Feb 1, 2011 : 9:55 p.m.

I am not sure that keeping the University of Michigan open falls under the category of &quot;essential services&quot; unless you work at the hospital...


Wed, Feb 2, 2011 : 12:47 a.m.

To the students: As long as you can walk to a party store, you can walk to your class. To the professor: You can work at home any time you want to, but be sure that your students have something to work on. To the DPS director: You are already on a paid sick leave more than three months. You are allowed to work any where you like while we still pay you.


Tue, Feb 1, 2011 : 9:46 p.m.

I was glad to hear that Washtenaw Community College is letting people know they will be closed. This allows students those students who live at a distance to stay home instead of coming in to class only to be told the college is closed. If a student has an early class and lives at a distance, the student often has to leave home very early to get to class on time, and sometimes the warning isn't issues until after they leave. This is more true if the student has to drop children off at the babysitters before going to class. I'm glad they made the right decision this time.

Monica R-W

Wed, Feb 2, 2011 : 3:45 a.m.

Good news for WCC students. Glad to hear that the college is taking the safety of their students' seriously, unlike U of M.

detroit buckets

Tue, Feb 1, 2011 : 9:43 p.m.

Another over hyped storm! Highly unlikely we see the 10-15 being predicted. Weather models are already showing we'll be more likely to fall into the 7-9 inch range


Tue, Feb 1, 2011 : 9:38 p.m.

The Ann Arbor District Library is closing tomorrow!

Michael O

Tue, Feb 1, 2011 : 9:22 p.m.

Just a heads up-Prickly Pear Cafe will not be open on Wednesday.

Macabre Sunset

Tue, Feb 1, 2011 : 9:14 p.m.

Like many states that now have a policy that hikers must pay for any necessary rescue in the wilderness, there should be a policy that anyone who needs to be rescued during an expected blizzard and isn't out because of an emergency should have to reimburse any rescue costs. This does appear to be one of those storms that would have forced a snow day even back in the '70s. But we have it a lot better than places to the south, which will get less snow, but a thick coating of ice. There's a big difference between hyping a storm that has a 90% chance of dumping more than 8 inches on us and worrying about the potential for a tornado that has about a .001% chance of touching down in a particular neighborhood.

Pizza Man

Tue, Feb 1, 2011 : 9:02 p.m.

What do you want to bet, Domino's will be open? It will take an hour and a half to make deliveries and people will have no idea why it took so long to get their food! I agree with Javajolt1 that we are all wimps now. I walked everyday to Elementary school, and so did all my friends. And that was everyday! Back then, it was unheard of to get a ride to school. Now, most every kid gets a ride to school because it isn't safe to walk to school. needs to do a follow up story in say... 9 months, to see how many babies were created during this snow storm, if we actually get one.


Tue, Feb 1, 2011 : 9:38 p.m.

&quot;this snow storm, if we actually get one&quot; Have you looked at radar?

Christopher LeClair

Tue, Feb 1, 2011 : 8:42 p.m.

At least this is good cuddle weather! Snuggle up everyone!


Tue, Feb 1, 2011 : 8:40 p.m.

My husband works in emergency services. He must be at work. Most people do not need to be at work. Just stay home. I would hate to see another dedicated emergency services worker get hurt going to the rescue of someone that didn't need to be out on the roads.


Tue, Feb 1, 2011 : 8:29 p.m.

What a lot of absurd hype! I don't want to say, &quot;I recall back when.....&quot; but I recall back when the blizzard of 1978 hit and the Ann Arbor News delivered my papers to the appointed drop zone on schedule. I had to deliver my paper route in waist-high snow. It took me about 5 hours. We had one day off from school. It was memorable because there were NEVER snow days back then. Now, someone smells a little snow coming and people start hoarding food, everything in sight closes down (before a single flake falls) and the media feeds the hype by running around like Chicken Little because the end is near. Totally ridiculous! When did we all become such wimps??


Tue, Feb 1, 2011 : 9:15 p.m.

The blizzard of '78? You mean the only that only dumped 8 inches of snow in the Detroit area? Waist-high? Are you 16 inches tall? <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>


Tue, Feb 1, 2011 : 8:51 p.m.

It was Valentines Day right?


Tue, Feb 1, 2011 : 8:34 p.m.

Oh no, Javajolt! You have become a curmudgeon! Save yourself! Smile.