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Posted on Wed, Feb 27, 2013 : 11:30 a.m.

Dense snowfall leaves 26,000 without power and a messy cleanup across Washtenaw County

By John Counts

Update: 23,000 still without power in Washtenaw County after winter storm blasts area

Jason Williams started plowing around midnight.

At 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, he was still at it, zipping around the nearly cleared parking lot of a Scio Township shopping plaza in a Bobcat snow remover, performing some finishing touches. Williams estimated he'd plowed about a dozen lots -- from banks to grocery stores -- all over the Ann Arbor area after 4 to 7 inches of the white stuff fell overnight.

Williams, who works for Saline-based construction company, said he was going to hit two more before taking a much-needed break.

"I'm going to take a nap," Williams said with a tired laugh.

After a quick respite, however, Williams said he will continue plowing throughout the day.

Winter storm coverage

Keep up-to-date on the latest coverage, from forecasts to closings around Washtenaw County

Many across Washtenaw County also were cleaning up Wednesday. Residents, businesses and commuters were all grappling with a heavy, sloppy snowfall that downed power lines and tree branches and caused numerous car accidents. Many area schools also were closed.

About 4-6 inches fell overnight and while the official weather advisory was canceled just before 10 a.m., snow showers were expected the rest of Wednesday, according to an alert issued by Washtenaw County.

Williams said it wasn't an easy snow to deal with. He had to adjust the plow on his Bobcat to accommodate the dense snow.

"I can't push it because it's so heavy," he said.

The weight of the snow is the reason many wires and trees were downed, said Len Singer, spokesman for DTE Energy. At 10 a.m., about 26,000 DTE Energy customers were without power in Washtenaw County. Though most of the outages are in outlying areas in the county, about 1,000 customers within the city of Ann Arbor were without power as well, Singer said.


Jason Williams was up all night plowing Ann Arbor area parking lots.

John Counts |

DTE Energy is working to assess the extent of the damage and come up with an estimated time of restoration.

At noon on Wednesday, DTE spokesman Alejandro Bodipo-Memba said they were working to get power restored by midnight to its customers. The "vast majority" of outages in southeastern Michigan were reported in Washtenaw County, Bodipo-Memba said.

Melissa Manning and Lauren Cipponeri are neighbors on Beechwood Boulevard in Lima Township. They both lost power around 3 a.m. Wednesday. Power had not been restored as the two women shoveled out their driveways around 8 a.m.

"You don't realize how much you depend on electricity until it goes out," said Cipponeri as she cleared her driveway so she could get to work. "I don't care what time I get there."

Manning has two young children and said she was planning on heading over to her parents' house in Ann Arbor because they still had power.

"I'm hoping I can just get out of my driveway," she said.

The roads were sloppy, but not too much of a problem, according to authorities and commuters.

Sgt. Geoff Fox with the Washtenaw County Sheriff's Office said deputies were dealing with the usual road run-offs, but there hadn't been any serious accidents reported.

"It's not too bad this morning," he said. "There are some crashed here and there."

Amy Schalk was pumping gas at a Marathon station on Jackson Avenue just west of Wagner in Scio Township around 9 a.m. She'd just driven to the area from Huron River Drive and said the roads were "messy, but not too bad."

"I was more worried about branches falling on me," she said.

At 9 a.m., the Washtenaw County Road Commission was continuing to deal with trees and limbs down on roads, said spokesman Jim Harmon.

Like Williams, county road commission drivers were putting in extra hours. Drivers reported at 4 a.m. and were on the roads within 15 minutes, Harmon said. Several employees also worked throughout the night.

Harmon said they are making steady progress on the roads and that drivers are working on the ramps to the major highways. The commission intended to get to secondary roads Wednesday afternoon. Secondary roads include 770 miles of unpaved roads and 356 miles of subdivision streets, he said.

"We're going to try to get to as much of that as we can," he said. "We're asking that residents not park on the streets in the subdivisions. Don’t put garbage receptacles out in the street." reporter Amy Biolchini and managing producer Cindy Heflin contributed to this report.

John Counts covers cops and courts for He can be reached at or you can follow him on Twitter.


Ann English

Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 12:25 a.m.

Not park in subdivisions? People should have been told not to park on North Division!

Sam S Smith

Wed, Feb 27, 2013 : 10:31 p.m.

My neighbor told me plowing was done on her street however there was 2-3 feet of compacted wet and very heavy snow at the end of her driveway! She had a major dig out!


Wed, Feb 27, 2013 : 10:05 p.m.

What no outcry from the " electrowhiners " assigning the storms fury to globalwarming coupled with the ion dome the new meters are creating over the city... oh.. I forgot their ecoputers don't run without juice....


Wed, Feb 27, 2013 : 9:41 p.m.

I have to agree with dotdash on this one. At 4:30 p.m., not one street in our neighborhood has been touched, including ones considered the thoroughfares through the neighborhood (the ones the bus will come down in the morning, for example). While I don't expect every street to be done, the larger ones are usually done by now. If they are not touched, they will be ice-tracks by the morning.


Wed, Feb 27, 2013 : 8:45 p.m.

Great pictures, but the street in Ann Arbor is Glen Leven not Glenn Leven (giant snow man, etc.)

Melanie Maxwell

Wed, Feb 27, 2013 : 10:03 p.m.

Looks like I hit the n key a little too hard! Thanks @MyOpinion, I've made the correction.


Wed, Feb 27, 2013 : 8:16 p.m.

As I had posted on another article, the snowfall was locally even heavier in some spots. In Lodi Township where I am, we had almost 9 inches of snow in the yard. It caused severe damage to at least two of our trees. Hopefully, those people without power will get it back very soon.


Wed, Feb 27, 2013 : 8:50 p.m.

You're right. I'm on the west side of A2 and easily got 8 or 9.


Wed, Feb 27, 2013 : 7:09 p.m.

The last picture is Coach Hart from Pioneer (Water Polo).

Julie Baker

Wed, Feb 27, 2013 : 6:26 p.m.

We just updated this story with a gallery of photos from photographer Melanie Maxwell. You can send us your own shots at


Wed, Feb 27, 2013 : 5:14 p.m.

The power outages are now the bigger issue. Was told my area might be out until around 11 PM. I saw a grenn flash as well around 3:30 AM and that is when the power went out. It's one thing to lose power during the summer but far worse in the winter.


Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 1:17 a.m.

DTE told us between 9:30 and 11:30 Wednesday nite. If we have no heat until Friday? I am spending the nite in a motel. A cold house with no heat is a nightmare in winter. Summer not so bad. Good luck staying warm to those without power.


Wed, Feb 27, 2013 : 8:38 p.m.

@ MRunner72, DTE told us the same time and our power came back on around 2:30 pm. As a general rule DTE is VERY conservative with saying the time power will be back on. Over deliver and under promise

Andy Frazier

Wed, Feb 27, 2013 : 8:27 p.m.

My area in Ypsi Township is out until Friday, according to DTE.


Wed, Feb 27, 2013 : 5:21 p.m.

You guys have all my sympathy. It can be anxiety producing, and downright dangerous in the Winter without power. Hope all ends well soon.

John Counts

Wed, Feb 27, 2013 : 5:19 p.m.

Hi, MRunner73: We have a different story about the "flashes" people saw last night. Read it here:


Wed, Feb 27, 2013 : 5:12 p.m.

I do not think the City does a good job of maintaining its trees on home easements. As I understand it, the trees on a home's easement is the property of the City of Ann Arbor. We have a lot of trees on our street dead or with dead branches, but the City does not trim them, or maintain them that I can see. Last summer, I submitted an on-line service request on the city's website in the Forestry section requesting tree trimming, but the ticket ended up being closed after weeks and weeks without any apparent trimming taking place. I always try not to park under any trees, because I don't trust them not to fall on my car. Because the trees that fell on the cars in that picture belong to the City, is the City responsible for the damage (not the homeowner)?


Wed, Feb 27, 2013 : 8:36 p.m.

Who owns the trees DOES NOT MATTER. If you own a tree and it falls on your neighbors car, it is yoru neighbors responsibility to pay to get the car fixed, NOT YOURS. Trees falling come under the concept of ACT OF GOD (unless the tree was KNOWINGLY dead or diseased) Any portion off the tree that is on your property, which extends all the way to the sky and underground can be trimmed by you if you choose. So to answer your question, the actual person responsible is the car owner.


Wed, Feb 27, 2013 : 5:54 p.m.

I'm not sure if the city actually owns the trees in the right-of-way, but it is responsible for maintaining them, so I doubt the homeowner is responsible for damage when they fall. It's really frustrating that they closed out your service request without trimming. I suppose they might have had someone inspect the tree, and they decided it wasn't urgent. The city's Forestry Department got overwhelmed when the emerald ash borer beetle killed all the ash trees in our area -- in the city many thousands of trees died in just a couple of years. I think they are still catching up, still removing standing dead trees, are only trimming live trees where there is immediate need.


Wed, Feb 27, 2013 : 5:01 p.m.

The rate of plowing residential streets is glacial. We live north of Geddes and we have yet to see a snow plow. The Ann Arbor city web site says "The property tax you pay is used for your local and county governmental units and for schools, not for day-to-day road maintenance. The city's street maintenance budget is funded solely by the gas tax and vehicle registration fees passed on by the State of Michigan in compliance with Public Act 51." This seems like a real mistake. If the state funding is not adequate (and it sure seems to me that it is not), then the city should add something more to the state funding. Having residents not be able to get out of their driveways costs real money and productivity as well as engendering frustration.


Wed, Feb 27, 2013 : 10:12 p.m.

Interesting discussion. If we were all on our own in terms of snow removal (do-it-yourself seems to be a theme here) presumably the city could do without all those trucks and salt. Since we all share the burden for paying for all this snow equipment, however, then I think it's reasonable to expect to share in the getting-plowed-out. No snow plow has been down my street yet. In fact, no snowplow has been down our street since 2011, by my count. I don't think that counts as adequate service.


Wed, Feb 27, 2013 : 8:40 p.m.

I live in the same area and I had no problems......until I got to Ypsi. Of course I have 4WD and that makes a huge difference. Mainly, it was just wet out at 7:30 a.m..


Wed, Feb 27, 2013 : 8:32 p.m.

@TwoWheels, Some people are not in a position to buy whatever car they want. There are also COSTS in building ANY road, so the fact is, if the road is built with tax payers dollars it should be MAINTAINED with taxpayer dollars. I also really hate those that complain about paying too much in taxes then turning around and saying if you CHOOSE to live somewhere with snow you should buy a different car. How about this, if you CHOOSE to live in a place where you don't like paying more in taxes, MOVE, It is your choice to get out anytime you want. Don't let the door hit you in the butt on the way out.


Wed, Feb 27, 2013 : 8:28 p.m.

I've lived in Ann Arbor for the last 22 years now, and I can say with 100% certainty the snow removal service from the city is far less than it used to be when we first got here. In the early 90's, they would clear almost all residential side streets within 1-2 days when we got 6 inches or more. Now, a lot of these side streets don't get plowed at all. Not clearing snow at all or in a reasonable amount of time has costs. People get stuck and have to call tow trucks. Parking is much tighter because large snow piles block spaces. It slows traffic way down taking longer to get places. And it can cause more accidents. So to me, putting up with poor snow removal service or getting a "better car" to drive through it are not good options.


Wed, Feb 27, 2013 : 7:25 p.m.

Does "fixing potholes on broken streets" fall under that category of "not funded by the city?:" If so, yikes. I'd gladly pay more to have some pothole-free roads...


Wed, Feb 27, 2013 : 6:50 p.m.

jcj, I agree that ground clearance plays a part, but not nearly as much as you're making it out to be. My wife had a Turbo Beetle that was horrifying to drive with the summer tires in the snow. But in spite of very little ground clearance, that car went from white-knuckle to downright pleasant in the snow with the snow tires.


Wed, Feb 27, 2013 : 6:24 p.m.

Ross The only thing I would take issue with is that snow tires will solve the problems of a sports car. Too many cars are so low that there is no ground clearance. And the best snow tires have to be on the ground for traction.


Wed, Feb 27, 2013 : 6:22 p.m.

But I having a feeling that there are major differences of opinion, too. Some people feel that families should purchase AWDs and 4WDs. Others (like me) feel they should be able to drive anything but a sports car and be OK in the winter.


Wed, Feb 27, 2013 : 6:21 p.m.

I've lived in WV, NE and OH. All do a much better job of making the roads clear and safe for drivers in the winter. At times in NE, its way too cold to use salt on the streets and the roads there are still much better than most winter days here. WV has tons of one-lane side roads that go up steep mountains and those are consistently cleared much more effectively than most roads are here.


Wed, Feb 27, 2013 : 5:59 p.m.

That's a whole different question. The question is whether or not they do an adequate job currently. I actually think they do too good of a job as it is. For most of the winter, driving AA roads is like driving the Bonneville Salt Flats, and it's unnecessary. If people have capable vehicles, AND they know how to drive them, there is no need at all for them to have your street cleared 10 minutes after it snows. I've lived in Colorado and I've lived in Idaho. Both places get far more snow (and they have dangerous mountains) yet their roads aren't completely white with salt like ours are. But the drivers in those places most certainly do take a much more active role than "eh, I'll wait for someone else to take care of me."


Wed, Feb 27, 2013 : 5:57 p.m.

Its laughable when commenters say, "Its Michigan! Deal with it!" There are many areas of the country that get much more snow than we do in A2 and those places do a much better job of clearing the streets. I've lived all over the country and have never dealt with problems caused by lack of snow removal until i moved here. A one to two day wait?? Really? Maybe a one day wait if I live on a tertiary road. Otherwise, I expect clear streets.


Wed, Feb 27, 2013 : 5:51 p.m.

I gotta agree with 2wheels, just BUY SOME SNOW TIRES! Even a sports car has no trouble getting around with a good set of snow tires. While of course snow plowing should be a basic function of government, it needs to remain limited and we should all accept a day or two response time to major snow events. There are only, what, 4 to 6 major snows per year. To employ a road crew of twice the size to sit around getting paid on standby would be stupid. The current balance of snow removal is just fine with me. Get some good tires, or a car with all wheel drive, and just learn to deal with it.

Amy Biolchini

Wed, Feb 27, 2013 : 5:44 p.m.

dotdash, have you been following the proposals for changes in road funding at the state level recently? There are several different models being talked about that could certainly change things for both the city and the county road crews, who have separate budgets but still have the same battle of working within a tight budget while responding to weather conditions.

Craig Lounsbury

Wed, Feb 27, 2013 : 5:44 p.m.

2WheelsGood, Is it your stance that plowing roads is not, or should not be, a core function of government?


Wed, Feb 27, 2013 : 5:43 p.m.



Wed, Feb 27, 2013 : 5:29 p.m.

Actually, you said: "Having residents not be able to get out of their driveways..." That most certainly suggests that you or whoever you're complaining for does not have a car that was designed for the climate you CHOOSE to live in. Did you take it personally? I do too when someone wants more of my tax dollars to solve a problem that only exists because of the choices you make.


Wed, Feb 27, 2013 : 5:20 p.m.

Interesting. I didn't see a single Subaru off the road this morning on my way to work. You must have special glasses.

Craig Lounsbury

Wed, Feb 27, 2013 : 5:16 p.m.

my problem isn't getting out and about, its the back up of traffic from all the "Subarus" owners who put their cars in a ditch because they tried to over drive the road conditions.


Wed, Feb 27, 2013 : 5:16 p.m.

Live in St Clair Shores, where they don't do residential streets, unless there at least 6 inches of snow.


Wed, Feb 27, 2013 : 5:09 p.m.

Or you could get a car that doesn't suck in the snow, and be responsible for yourself instead of waiting for someone else. There's a reason you see so many Subarus in this town (and many others). You live in a place that gets a fair amount of snow. I'm pretty sure you know by now that's not going to change.