Commuter's nightmare: Light snowfall leads to 79 crashes on Ann Arbor-area roads
Melanie Maxwell | AnnArbor.com
Editor's note: This article has been updated with comments from Washtenaw County Road Commission Director of Operations Jim Harmon.
An overnight snowfall didn’t amount to much in terms of inches, but it caused havoc on the roadways Friday morning. Drivers slid and crashed into each other at an unusually high rate throughout the morning.
Washtenaw County dispatchers counted 79 crashes on the roads, including two involving school buses and several involving multiple vehicles. Michigan State Police dealt with 14 just on Washtenaw County freeways, said Sgt. Mark Thompson at the Brighton post. Fortunately, none of the crashes involved serious injuries.
About an inch of snow fell overnight in the Ann Arbor area.
“When you get that little bit of snow, it gets so slick and people don’t realize that,” said Sean Gleason, fire chief in Pittsfield Township. Firefighters there responded to five crashes this morning.
The Washtenaw County Road Commission launched its full fleet of 46 trucks at 4 a.m. to scrape and salt roads, director of operations Jim Harmon said this afternoon. As the morning progressed, more snow fell, creating slick conditions. Once accidents occurred, the freeways became congested, preventing drivers from clearing the roads, he said.
He said laying down salt before the snow fell would have been a "complete waste of money." Traffic and winds would have blown it off the road, he said. Conditions last night and this morning were also not appropriate for using brine, a salt and water mixture, on the roads, he said.
City crews around Washtenaw County were also out to salt and plow. Jeff Fordice, director of public works in Saline, said truck drivers worked most of the morning clearing city streets.
Harmon, as well as police and firefighters, said much of the problem was caused by people driving too fast for conditions.
“Maybe we just got used to Michigan being a warm climate state,” said Derrick Jackson, spokesman for the Washtenaw County Sheriff's Office. “Maybe people just forgot how to drive.”
For updated forecasts and conditions any time, check AnnArbor.com's weather page.