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Posted on Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 7:31 a.m.

Winter weather advisory issued: Crashes clog freeways, U-S 23 closed

By Cindy Heflin


Snow falls on Jackson Road west of Ann Arbor as motorists creep along the roadway.

John Counts |

Update, 9:30 a.m.: U.S. 23 in the Milan area still has one lane closed on the southbound side of the freeway. The other lanes have been reopened.

Crashes on U.S. 23 near the Washtenaw-Monroe County line closed the freeway Thursday morning as snow fell in the Ann Arbor area.

Details about the accidents were not immediately available, but a dispatcher with the Washtenaw County Sheriff's Office said both the northbound and southbound lanes of the freeway had been closed.

Emergency crews were dealing with multiple crashes on Ann Arbor-area roads and freeways as drivers struggled to cope with bands of lake effect snow.

The National Weather Service issued a winter weather advisory in effect until 1 p.m., warning of blowing snow and up to 3 inches of accumulation in some areas. The advisory is in effect until 1 p.m.

In the Milan area, the slick freeway led to a multiple-vehicle pileup, said firefighter Greg Brierley. About eight to 12 vehicles were involved in that crash and there were other crashes north and south of the main one, he said.

One car was stuck under a semi, but the driver was not injured, he said. One driver had to be extricated from a vehicle. Only two people had been transported to the hospital, he said.

"The whole city of Milan is just ice," he said.

Several crashes had been reported on Interstate 94 and in the city of Ann Arbor, a dispatcher said at 7:20 a.m. Crashes had also been reported in the area of northbound U.S. 23 and Geddes Road. A motorist reported a big backup on eastbound I-94 at Old U.S. 12 near Chelsea. Jackson Road was also reported to be backed up in the area.

Crashes were also reported later in the morning at I-94 and Ann Arbor-Saline Road and I-94 and Dancer Road. Several crashes had also occurred near the intersection of Miller and Wagner Roads in Scio Township, a dispatcher said at 8:40 a.m.

Ann Arbor Police also reported multiple crashes in the city.

Jim Harmon, director of operations for the Washtenaw County Road Commission, said most snowplow drivers reported at 7 a.m. Thursday and were heading out to their routes. A few drivers had been called in early to deal with trouble spots.

The Baker Road overpass at I-94 was particularly slippery, Harmon said.

He said some areas were experiencing intense snowfall as the bands of lake effect snow move through. In other areas, it may not be snowing at all, he said.

For the rest of the day, the Ann Arbor area can expect occasional snow showers with a high near 24. It will be windy with gusts up to 39 mph.

Thursday night, show showers are likely with an additional inch of accumulation expected. It will be cloudy with a low around 13 and wind chill values as low as 1 below zero.

Friday, scattered snow showers are expected before 9 a.m. It will be mostly cloudy, with a high near 19 and wind chill values as low as 2 below.

View Crash 013113 in a larger map

Cindy Heflin is associate news director at Contact her at or 734-623-2572 or follow her on Twitter.



Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 6:45 p.m.

I am normally one to call whining drivers a bunch of sissies and defend the job the road commission is doing. However today they really dropped the ball. Starting at 7am when we knew things would get icy and that snow showers and high wind would be coming through the area? For shame. Again, I have snow tires and had zero issues on the road today myself. But everyone else was almost completely unable to get moving or stop safely. Just a single pass of salt would have fixed this.


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 6:09 p.m.

If the intent is to salt the roads to make commuting safe, then for sure starting at sometime after 7a is late. I was one of many cars (and a driver struck outside their vehicle) involved in crashes on Wagner near Miller Road on west side of Ann Arbor right at 7a, maybe a little after. I was driving cautiously, I crested the hill, and saw vehicles backed up at the bottom of the hill. But, brakes were useless at that point on the icy hill and I slid down the hill into another car. There were independent crashes ahead and behind. Wagner Road was closed down. By the time all the crashes were cleared and vehicles towed, police reports made, etc.... the hill and road had been well salted!! Good timing. Ultimately, my car, my fault - no arguments, but seems like timing of salting could have been better for icy conditions and the volume of traffic.


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 4:19 p.m.

Alot of the road issues this morning couldn't have been prevented by just a salt truck you guys. So please quit being so harsh on the Road Commission. There was ICE and White out conditions. I know I live just outside of Washtenaw County and the issues were the same too. Look at the big I-96 crash that Detroit had going on to. And guess what- its was due to white out. Not a Road Commission. Just because a salt truck is out doesn't mean that the roads are automaticaaly driveable. I think alot of people depend on them and get a false sense of security when they see them. No vehilce can drive well on ICE or in White out conditions.


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 9:27 p.m.

Mgoblue, your are waisting your breath here. These people say the same thing everytime. They arw book smart and common sense dumb!


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 6:23 p.m.

I wasn't really looking for an explanation. I DO know how salt works. ;) The temperature this morning was in the mid 20s. 25 just before I left at 7:15, I believe. Certainly warm enough for the salt to work. And I realize that salt isn't put down with the *intention* of providing traction, but it DOES help provide traction when it's on the road.


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 5:52 p.m.

So true Tesla great post. And yes SuperiorMother I am talking about the I-75 crash. Used wrong freeway in above post. And my point exactly. Alot of todays crashes and issues on the roads were due to the white out condtions. Road Commission has no control over that....Also white outs cause the road to be slippery. Salt won't help if its too cold.


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 5:41 p.m.

The salt is not for traction. The way it works is the salt reacts with the moisture and breaks down and melts (driving on the salt can aid this) then the salt "melts" and the brine created between the water and sodium melts the smow or ice. Now...salt doesn't work well when temperatures are below 20 degrees and it gets worse from there. Then there is the issue of rapid refreeze of the melted snow or ice that has now been turned into a liquid and as the sodium disapates and temperatures fall or stay low you get re freeze. The simpletons that blame the mayor or people at the road commissions are laughable. You simply can not be at all places at once, and you can't always beat mother nature.


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 4:38 p.m.

Well then I don't think I understand what the salt does. Does it not melt the ICE and provide traction on the roads? As far as the pile-up on I75, the Free Press says that there was a white out, and vehicles skidded on the ICE.

Roy Munson

Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 3:48 p.m.

Isn't 7AM a bit late to be starting out?


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 6:41 p.m.

Yeah, what the heck? I thought road commission guys started at like 5am. They should, anyway.


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 3:39 p.m.

Yes, the roads were very slick and areas of white outs. Everyone that lives in the area and Michigan knows that we get snow and ice....Deal with it. There are soooo many areas and highways that don't ever get salted or plowed throughout the state. We all know to drive slow. I live in Wayne County and commute to Washtenaw everyday and I hate to say that M14 is a 110% better than 96 and M14 in Wayne. I always see more salt trucks here than at home. Also, at 6am it was not predicted to get this much snow just a dusting of blowing snow and there was no advisories issued at that time either. I hope none of you travel up north or to the U.P. because you apparently wouldn't survive.


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 4:55 p.m.

Agree with Bill. I lived in Houghton for six years and there were WAY fewer cars on the road to deal with. Also in the UP it generally gets cold and stays cold. This means lots of snow but very little ice. Downstate here it freezes and thaws so much everything gets coated in ice, which is much more hazardous than snow.


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 4:39 p.m.

#1: Wayne County is WAY better maintained, in my opinion. #2: Marquette doesn't have 150,000 commuters.


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 3:14 p.m.

Pontiac Trail north of Skydale is treacherous!

Ann English

Fri, Feb 1, 2013 : 1:25 a.m.

I'm still looking for the answer to this morning's traffic jam on southbound Whitmore Lake. It reached as far north as Stein Road. I considered turning onto Warren Road, but you make it sound like if I had turned onto Pontiac Trail from Warren, I would have slid off the road or been hit by another car. The vehicles in the traffic jam at 8:25 am were moving less than 5 mph. No one dared pass other cars. When I realized the traffic jam wasn't due to an accident up ahead, I concluded that the northbound traffic that kept coming was NOT drivers far ahead who decided to turn around ahead, due to some road closure. It was a real patience tester, but nobody rear-ended anyone else. We all kept traction with the road. Most of the motorist ahead were using Pontiac Trail, so their very slow commute continued. That made me a little glad I had NOT used Pontiac Trail to get to Main Street. Just trying to avoid all the hills I could. Why the traffic jam on Whitmore Lake Road? Was southbound US-23 closed NORTH of M-14? It's all I can come up with: lots of motorists forced to use an alternative route to get to downtown Ann Arbor.


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 3:13 p.m.

Cindy Can you tell us what time the decision is made to cancel school? I suspect the snow started at about 6am which was too late to cancel.


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 6:48 p.m.

Which is ridiculous. A lot can change between 5:30 and 8:00 am.


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 3:38 p.m.

You are right. I think schools are usually cancelled by 5:30 am at the latest.

Kyle Mattson

Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 3:22 p.m.

Hi jcj- Check out Danielle's story from Monday regarding that:


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 3:17 p.m.

I got the "school is canceled" call at 6:10 on Monday. (My kids attend Ann Arbor schools.) We had plenty of snow on our deck when I got up at 6 today, and the roads had to have been iced up long before then, too.


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 3:07 p.m.

The Hieftjeites should be held criminally negligent for not having crews out salting the roads PRIOR to this event (and others like it). Others have commented on the sorry state of things during rush hour today, and it was completely preventable. If the Hieftje could see beyond the end of his nose, and spent more money on basic services, instead of frivolous fluff. He is a clueless criminal who somehow seems to think he knows it all. How can anyone continue to vote for the likes of him?!

Bertha Venation

Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 3:29 p.m.

I could not have said it better myself.... RIGHT ON!


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 2:58 p.m.

I don't know why Milan had school this morning. I drove my son and several cars of kids were late, plus a school bus didn't get there until 9:12. The side door locks at 9:05, so a lot of kids had to be walked into classes. The side streets were entirely ice. Not sure on the call with this one, especially if more wind and snow are expected throughout the day. Praying everyone is safe on the ride home.


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 2:46 p.m.

The roads today were wretched. They should have been salted long before 7 a.m. It's not as though this morning's road conditions weren't predictable - it rained all day yesterday, got well below freezing overnight (as predicted) and now we have heavy snow (as predicted). I also agree that school should have been canceled, or at least a two-hour delay (though I understand that Ann Arbor, Ypsi, and other local districts generally don't do delays). Conditions were very dangerous, whether your kid walks, rides the bus, or is driven to school by a parent.


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 2:32 p.m.

It took me more than eight light changes to get from Miller to Huron on 7th (one long block). Cars were pointed every which way trying to navigate the hills on each end. As an example of critical thinking gone wrong, we all watched while a city pick-up with rear salting wheel going in the back went up and down the sidewalk alongside us. I didn't notice anybody walking on the walks; we could have really used that salt on the roads.


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 6:46 p.m.

I'm surprised you made it down Miller in that short of time. It took over an hour to get from the Miller Rd. Park & Ride to Downtown on the bus. At least it was relaxing for the passengers...but not the driver, I'm sure!


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 3:06 p.m.

Haven't you been paying attention? Pedestrians rank far above drivers in the Ann Arbor food chain.

John Simon

Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 2:32 p.m.

Update on Skyline: At 7:35, after school had already begun, the parking lot was nearly empty. Students arrived late for the next 2 hours as they tried to get to school. Roads were terrible, crashes everywhere. Very very very unsafe conditions to have thousands of high schoolers drive in. On top of that, the entire entrance to skyline was a sheet of ice. You would turn around and 5-10 more people would be flailing on the ground. By far the worst call in the last couple of years. School should have been closed without a doubt.


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 6:44 p.m.

I was already out in this mess and told mine to stay home. Not worth putting young (or any) lives in danger because county and school officials don't have the foresight to either cancel school or take care of the roads. Seriously, the weather and subsequent road conditions this morning were not a surprise!


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 3:42 p.m.

My daughter dropped me off at work on her way to Skyline H.S. early this morning. After she got to school her exact words were, "scariest drive of my life".


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 2:47 p.m.

I dropped my kids at Skyline at 7:20 a.m. For once, the parents dropping off were cautious and didn't cut one another off in the turnaround as they usually do. That was good! However, as Mr. Simon notes, there was a huge sheet of exposed ice outside the student entrance. I sat in my car, waiting for traffic to clear before leaving, and saw at least 20 students slip and fall hard on the ice. I called the school office and told the person who answered, who seemed unconcerned but said she would notify the building and grounds people. I am wondering, why did the building and grounds people not have a quick glance at the student entrance and spot this enormous ice rink that students had to walk over? If one of my kids had hit his or her head as hard as some of these kids did, I would have a few things to say to the school about it.


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 2:29 p.m.

Back when this town had a newspaper and journalists, no one would allow Jim Harmon to make such a cavalier statement without some follow up. Why weren't drivers called in early to hit all main roads. I drove in on Jackson Ave. at 8:30 and the road HAD NOT BEEN TOUCHED by salt. Who made the decision? there are countless accidents this morning. The Road Commission is directly responsible for this for making such a poor decision. Too bad no one is accountable.


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 2:23 p.m.

This is Michigan - the roads get icy in the winter and we all have to be careful. But when the road crews don't wander in until 7am, that tells me that Jim Harmon and whoever does the road crew scheduling are blatantly negligent. Rush hour starts well before 7am. How many injuries have to occur so they can get some extra sleep? My company's lot was salted, and melting just fine, so don't tell me that salt won't work in this weather.


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 5:01 p.m.

News flash! Jim Harmon and his "crew" are probably Union and they did not want to lose any of their "nappy" time. What a joke!


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 3:32 p.m.



Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 2:51 p.m.

Road conditions this morning were predictable based on the weather forecast along with the rain from yesterday. Salt trucks should have been on the roads LONG before 7 a.m. If roads had been properly salted before morning traffic, they would probably have been just fine in most areas.


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 2:20 p.m.

I'm surprised schools weren't closed today. The roads seem a lot worse this morning than they were Monday.


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 3:59 p.m.

After all the complaining by people Monday, I am guessing AAPS decided against it for that reason. It was clearly worse today, than on Monday.


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 2:55 p.m.

I was too. Our Subaru barely made it to school and back. You could see tracks along Sunset where cars had slipped and hit the curbs.

Dave Bass

Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 2:20 p.m.

Stay off of them, if you can.


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 2:12 p.m.

Sad but true science fact: Here in SE Michigan, we don't really get "lake-effect snow." The prevailing winds are West-to-East, so it's the wind traveling from Minnesota, over Lake Michigan, which deposits "lake-effect snow" on Western Michigan. Sadly, we just get regular old snow here in SE Michigan.


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 6:25 p.m.

Uh, just look at the radar? Narrow, intense band of snowfall that ORIGINATE off Lake Michigan and stream all the way across the state. Most DEFINITELY lake effect.


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 5:27 p.m.

We can get lake effect snow of Lake Huron too

Macabre Sunset

Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 3:38 p.m.

It's not the case today, but we also can (and did earlier this month) receive lake-effect snow from more circular storms centered to the southeast of us, with winds coming from the east and northeast. Not that common, but it happens. When this happens over the Atlantic, you can get what they call Nor'easters that dump 20 inches of the stuff in New England. I'm not sure why you believe lake-effect from the west isn't possible here, though. The wind is gusting to 40 and we have a rather strong cold front held up by a warm front. Moisture will carry much further in these conditions.


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 2:55 p.m.

Ms. Helfin- If you put your weatherman up against his scientific peers, rather than having him preen for the media, he'd likely back down from that comment.

Cindy Heflin

Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 2:30 p.m.

I spoke to Matt Mosteiko at the National Weather Service in White Lake Township. He said the snow we had today is indeed lake effect snow. It set up over Lake Michigan and had enough strength and moisture to make it all the way to Ann Arbor.


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 2:30 p.m.

False. Sometimes the moisture picked up over Lake Michigan falls as snow even as far east as Detroit. You can see the bands of lake effect snow stretching across the Lower Peninsula on radar right now.

Lon Horwedel

Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 2:26 p.m.

Just going by what Chuck Gaidica said, and by the looks of the radar, they sure look like parallel bands of snow coming across the state originating off Lake Michigan.

Lon Horwedel

Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 1:49 p.m.

Three amazing technologies could have been used this morning to make the commute to work/school a helluva lot easier. 1) Doppler radar (could see these bands of lake effect snow coming well in advance) 2) Road salt (last I checked, it actually melts snow on hard surfaces, like asphalt) and 3) Ice skates! (in case the city fails to use the first two mentioned) Honestly, does Ann Arbor have the worst roads in the state of Michigan, or is it just me? Miller was a parking lot this morning because no one could get up the hill at Newport or Seventh, and if not for the craters doting most of the road, there would have been absolutely no traction!

Carrie Rheingans

Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 3:29 p.m.

This was exactly my problem this morning too. I know I've seen snow plows on city streets before... as well as street sweepers, which would have also helped. It boggles my mind that even *I* knew snow was coming and it's not my job to follow the weather the way it is the job of the city road commission. What do I pay taxes for again??


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 2:45 p.m.

Now you have given them a reason not to fix the pot holes/craters. Like they needed another excuse.

Macabre Sunset

Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 1:31 p.m.

Just to the north of the county, we're under an advisory, too, but so far just flurries - roads are bare. This is a very localized lake-effect snow. Be careful even if it looks clear, because it's an inch-an-hour and very slick roads when it hits.


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 1:16 p.m.

About an inch of snow already on the north side of Ypsi (superior twnshp). Pretty windswept and variable though. Nice layer of ice underneath, be careful out there. Big backups (at 7:30am) at Prospect and Geddes as the intersection is completely iced up and is averaging about one car getting through per green light (in the uphill north and west directions). I had to drive around some fools and detour into the back roads which were empty and fine. If there was ever a better argument for buying a set of snow tires, I haven't seen it. Full traction while all the sad sacks in "all seasons" couldn't even move.


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 6:22 p.m.

Oh, jcj, let me tell you, my blizzaks definitely have a huge and very noticeable advantage on icy roads. I still get a touch of wheel slip when accelerating, but not much. Other vehicles could not even move. One crusty old taxi was sliding backwards with his accelerator pinned.


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 4:08 p.m.

jcj - Yes, snow tires do help on ice, though obviously nothing is a panacea. Did you watch the video? Note that snow tires made a substantial difference in tests on a frozen hockey rink. You can find the write-up of that same video at . Note the test vehicle they used: a BMW 325i. RWD.


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 1:36 p.m.

Kyle Trust me I have always had 4 wheel drive WITH snow tires in addition to 4 wheel drive with all weather tires. And snow tires would not have made a difference on a two wheel drive. The reason it helps so much for traction with 4 wheel drive is the front drive wheels have the weight of the engine to help.

Kyle Mattson

Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 1:30 p.m.

I'm not sure how bad it was on Miller, but winter tires do have a significant advantage in snow and ice. Example:


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 1:20 p.m.

Snow tires are fine where car have not packed the snow to ice. Snow tires would not have done a thing on Miller at 7:45.


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 1:07 p.m.

Heading to the airport this mornng at 6 am the problem was not the roads but the whiteout conditions caused by blowing snow and semis doing 70 when cars could barely do 40 and see the road.


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 6:35 p.m.

And unfortunately some paid a very dear price. At least 4 dead and dozens injured in a horrific chain reaction accident on I-75 around 9am. A semi lost it's load, a white-out, and trucks and cars suddenly braking on ice. Seems like there would have been plenty of time to salt the freeway before then.

Lizzy Alfs

Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 12:56 p.m.

The roads are slick under that layer of snow. Be careful out there!


Sat, Feb 2, 2013 : 12:38 a.m.

White out conditions on Friday at 11:30 am made M 14 an nightmare.. Visibility was like zero. I don't mind winter but the white outs have got to stop. 2 more months of this stuff.