You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Wed, Dec 26, 2012 : 6:28 p.m.

Road commission and first responders grapple with first major storm of winter

By John Counts


Traffic moves slowly at the intersection of State Street and Ellsworth on Wednesday afternoon. There have been numerous accidents reported across Washtenaw County as a winter storm blows into the area.

Joseph Tobianski |

Related coverage of the storm:

Reports of traffic accidents across Washtenaw County continued to accumulate along with the snow Wednesday.

The Washtenaw County Road Commission had all 46 trucks out doing a mix of salting and plowing, said Jim Harmon, director of operations.

Harmon said trucks were out salting even before the snow started falling Wednesday afternoon in an effort to prevent it from sticking when it came.

Crews continued their efforts throughout the storm. The day shift was expected to quit around 8 p.m. and be replaced with the night shift, which would continue the snow removal efforts until 4 a.m., when the day shift comes back on.

Areas of Ann Arbor had reportedly received up to 4 inches of snow by 6 p.m. A winter weather advisory was in effect until 7 a.m. Thursday.

Harmon hopes to have the major roadways cleared for the morning rush hour.

The road commission is responsible for all the major area freeways -- M-14, U.S. 23 and Interstate 94 -- as well as all the major paved county roads like Jackson, Carpenter and North Territorial. These take precedence to secondary roads.

"We're hoping to get to some secondary roads tomorrow," Harmon said.

The city of Ann Arbor has all seven of its trucks out plowing and salting. Crews were expecting to hit primary roads first, then move to lower priorities. City residents can track the plows' routes essentially in real time via an online tool that debuted last year.

Meanwhile, police and fire organizations responded to numerous spin-outs and other weather-related traffic incidents throughout the county Wednesday.

There were four accidents in Ypsilanti as of 5:30 p.m., including a two-car accident at Washtenaw Avenue and Perrin Street and a few spin-outs on I-94, police and fire officials there said.

The Saline Area Fire Department had responded to four weather-related accidents, officials said, including a rollover on Surrey Drive off Ann Arbor-Saline Road and a three-car accident at Macon and Jordan roads. There were no reported injuries in either accident.

Officials at the Chelsea Area Fire Authority said they responded to three spin-outs on I-94 Wednesday at Kalmbach, Dancer and Pierce roads. No injuries were reported.

Ann Arbor police Lt. Ed Dreslinski said there have been many instances of drivers losing control and hitting curbs in the city. He encourages people to stay off the roads.

"Go home, grab a cup of coffee and stay inside," he said.

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



Fri, Dec 28, 2012 : 2:36 p.m.

and i believe that's what they get paid to do

Alan Benard

Thu, Dec 27, 2012 : 4:09 p.m.

I left the U-M medical center area at 5 p.m. yesterday and nearly died trying to navigate the major roads between there and my home on the southeast side. Why on earth were Washtenaw Ave. and Platt Road completely unsalted or plowed during a snow event predicted days in advance? This is unacceptable.


Fri, Dec 28, 2012 : 2:16 a.m.

What type of tires were you running on your vehicle? If they were not snow rated tires, you are to blame for being unprepared for a predicted snow event.


Thu, Dec 27, 2012 : 9:28 p.m.

Hey momma. Quit trying to fight the retards on here. They will never get it


Thu, Dec 27, 2012 : 8:07 p.m.

Alan, how many times in the recent past have we been told we were going to get a large snowfall days in advance and when it finally did come it was way less than these so called experts predicted?


Thu, Dec 27, 2012 : 5:18 p.m.

Really? Nearly died? Doubt it


Thu, Dec 27, 2012 : 4:34 p.m.

How do you know they were unsalted??? They very well could have been but it snowed so much so fast that it looked like it was untreated everywhere. But they were treated. It was very well planned out, the trucks were all out in full force. The were just up against alot of snow so fast.


Thu, Dec 27, 2012 : 3:48 p.m.

I was out running a few errands this morning and the roads are in good condition. Given the task of removing snow from about 2,000 miles of roads and maintaining the road surfaces until the sun returns, the road commission is doing a very good job. Drivers must step up and adjust their driving to the actual conditions. Thank you road commission truck drivers and support staff for readiness in the face of funding cuts from Lansing.


Thu, Dec 27, 2012 : 3:40 p.m.

Thank you to the nice people who have made sensible comments here. My husband works for WCRC. He worked 16 hours Xmas Eve, 16 on Xmas Day and 19 hours on Dec. 26. He has missed 24 out of the last 27 years of Christmases due snow and needing to be at many have you or your family missed? And it's all because people don't know how to be responsible and drive according to the weather. The ridiculous comments must be the 47%......Happy New Year.


Thu, Dec 27, 2012 : 4:32 p.m.

Getreal, great post. I am to the wife of a WCRC worker and have had to say good-bye to him on many occasions for snow. People don't understand the grueling hours these people put in to clear the roads. Then to come back home dog tired just to turn around and do it all again over for 16 more hours. They do a great job considering the elements they are up against. Not only mother nature but crazy drivers that can't seem to SLOW down and respect the workers.


Thu, Dec 27, 2012 : 3:32 p.m.

I, too, am impressed with the quick response from the Road Commission. There was a salt/plow truck working on Island Lake Road west of Dexter at 4:45 a.m. this morning. Since my son was on his way to work at that time, I was very glad to see it! Thank you to the people who get the job done. I would not want to be out in those conditions!

An Arborigine

Thu, Dec 27, 2012 : 2:35 p.m.

I'm impressed, the roads in my neighborhood were being plowed this morning, twelve hours after the snow stopped. The last few years it has been more like three days. Good job guys!

E Claire

Thu, Dec 27, 2012 : 3:34 p.m.

Lucky you. My street will not see a plow, never do no matter how much snow. We don't even get the luxury of a little sand. I guess that's what happens when you live in the 4th ward with such wonderful representation on council


Thu, Dec 27, 2012 : 1:13 p.m.

Once again we have posters howling about the road crews and the lack of snow removal. How about the drivers and pedestrians and their collective lack of common sense. I was out yesterday between 4:30 pm and 7:00 pm and saw 6-8 snowplows. I also saw people trying to drive above posted speed limits even though most were going well under, then there were the people who were driving 10 mph and taking up so much room no one could get around them, and finally I saw pedestrians twice cross in front of traffic when there were crosswalks just a few yards away.


Thu, Dec 27, 2012 : 1:11 p.m.

It's 8:12 thursday morning. Where is the latest news on traffic and crashes?


Thu, Dec 27, 2012 : 11:59 a.m.

lots of people complain about the roads. forget the money and cutbacks. i want to thank them for all they are doing with what they have. to many people complain and do not say thank you. just keep doing the best you can to protect us. THANKS AGAIN.


Thu, Dec 27, 2012 : 9:11 a.m.

@Brian, it's called the dumbing down effect. Any snow amount over 1 inch is considered a major snow storm in SE Michigan


Thu, Dec 27, 2012 : 2:39 p.m.

I think it's more like a slow news day


Thu, Dec 27, 2012 : 4:37 a.m.

4 inches of snow. Not really a major snow storm. What have we become in Michigan? Talk about 10 to 16 inches now I would call that a major snow storm.


Thu, Dec 27, 2012 : 2:38 p.m.

This is more than 4 inches. Measures about 6.5 inches. A reliable news site (not reported 6.5 inches. Comparative to what we've had in a while this is major. Also, this would shut down cities south of us that aren't used to this amount of snow.


Thu, Dec 27, 2012 : 12:56 p.m.

They call every storm 4 inches so they have an excuse for not doing residential streets. We have more like 6 inches where we live in town.


Thu, Dec 27, 2012 : 3:11 a.m.

Let us all salute our road crews - brave heroes who tirelessly brave the elements so we can enjoy safe an passable thoroughfares.


Thu, Dec 27, 2012 : 12:48 a.m.

Curious...who is responsible for a road like Washtenaw Ave that stretches from Ypsi, through Pittsfield TWN, and into Ann Arbor? Is it the County Road Commission or the cities and townships? There is often a difference in quality: the Ypsi part seems to get done faster, the Pittsfield stretch is often snow covered long after the Ypsi stretch is salted and drivable, and Ann Arbor is so so. Also, are the snow plows and salt trucks out in Saline, Dexter, Ypsilanti, and Pittsfield Township? Considering that you are reporting on their accidents, it would be nice to report on the number of salt trucks and snow plows working in those communities. Washtenaw County is made up of a lot of towns with connected roads, we all read Ann for major news.


Thu, Dec 27, 2012 : 12:53 p.m.

"we all read Ann for major news." That's your first mistake.


Thu, Dec 27, 2012 : 12:56 a.m.

The Road Commission is responsible for roads in the townships. Washtenaw Avenue for example is done by several entities - City of AA in their jurisdiction, the City of Ypsi in their jurisdiction and the Rd Comm in the various townships the road goes through, if I'm not mistaken.


Thu, Dec 27, 2012 : 12:47 a.m.

"The day shift was expected to quit around 8 p.m. and be replaced with the night shift, which would continue the snow removal efforts until 4 a.m., when the day shift comes back on." It seems to me that the storms should dictate the shifts, and employees should be responding to the weather and the needs of the road conditions. If people have to work overtime or start earlier or work later because of conditions, that should be the priority, rather than starting and stopping based on "shift times."


Fri, Dec 28, 2012 : 1:05 a.m.

Basic Bob, finally someone with some common sense.

Basic Bob

Thu, Dec 27, 2012 : 3:27 a.m.

Day shift does not normally end at 8:00 pm. They have already worked later because of the storm. By 8:00, everyone has worked their maximum safe shift. Try plowing on busy streets for 12 hours and tell me if you are able to keep going all night - safely. We also need to consider there is a finite number of trucks and drivers. It makes no sense to leave a truck unused in the morning while snow is falling, putting a driver off his normal work and sleep schedule, and the roads unplowed. They have a plan and a system, trust them.


Thu, Dec 27, 2012 : 1:01 a.m.

Well, in the modern industrialized world where workers are treated like human beings and management practices important safety regulations, it makes sense that there would be two shifts. I for one don't want a snow blind over tired salt truck driver losing control on the roads and plowing into people.


Thu, Dec 27, 2012 : 12:40 a.m.

It appears at this time that the snow plow tracking tool is not operational. Does that mean that the snow plows aren't either?

Ann English

Thu, Dec 27, 2012 : 12:21 a.m.

Sounds like it would be a good idea to downshift while driving in the city, even where the streets are level.


Thu, Dec 27, 2012 : 3:17 a.m.

Why would you want to downshift?


Thu, Dec 27, 2012 : 12:16 a.m.

So I heard on the news that Washtenaw county had 46 trucks on the road at 6pm. How many trucks are there for the county?


Thu, Dec 27, 2012 : 1:36 p.m.

Well, Ann Arbor had all of their 7 trucks out. Whoopee. That explains why when going into town as soon as I get pass Wagner Rd. on Jackson there is snow all over.


Thu, Dec 27, 2012 : 12:48 a.m.

If there are only 4 people on the night shift, God help us all. Not nearly enough.


Thu, Dec 27, 2012 : 12:24 a.m.

that's about it for trucks. the "night shift" consists of 4 employees on state roads only.