Washtenaw County road crews, school districts brace for 10-15 inches of snow
Call today the calm before the storm.
And what a storm it could be, forecasters say.
The National Weather Service is now predicting 10 to 15 inches of snow for Southeast Michigan between Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning — the largest snowstorm in more than six years.
All eyes are on the weather forecast today as Washtenaw County Road Commission crews, local school districts and others prepare for what's to come.
Melanie Maxwell | AnnArbor.com
Although the big storm won't move in until Tuesday at about 4 p.m., we're in for some snow tonight, according to the National Weather Service. Meteorologist Rachel Kulik of the White Lake Township office said 1 to 2 inches of snow are likely tonight.
That system will wrap up by morning, and flurries are possible throughout the day, Kulik said.
By about 4 p.m., the large storm system is expected to strike — bringing 10 to 15 inches by 8 a.m. Wednesday. Kulik said the latest predictions for Southeast Michigan are about 10 inches.
Making this storm potentially worse will be high winds and extremely low temperatures, forecasters said. Wind chills are expected to dip below zero Tuesday night, and high winds could mean widespread power outages, the weather service said.
The area is currently under a winter storm watch until Wednesday evening. The storm will first hit Missouri, Illinois and Indiana, and some of those area are already under storm warnings, Kulik said.
The last time the area was hit with such a massive winter storm was January 2005, when 12 inches of snow fell, Kulik said.
Children and parents monitoring the forecast are likely anticipating a snow day or two — although school district officials say they haven't yet begun discussing closing schools. They said they could make a decision as early as Tuesday evening.
Washtenaw County Road Commission crews are spending the day preparing and patching potholes, said Jim Harmon, the road commission's director of operations. Preparing includes maintenance on the trucks and ensuring there's an ample supply of salt, sand and fuel, he said.
"We're hoping for the best and that it's not as bad as it looks right now, but we'll be prepared if it is," Harmon said.
A storm of this size would mean mounting front plows on the trucks instead of relying on the under-body plows and would necessitate special equipment for gravel roads, Harmon said.
When the snow starts falling, crews will focus almost entirely on the freeways and primary roads. And if it keeps falling, secondary roads and subdivisions might not see a snow plow for several days, Harmon said.
Employees will likely work 16-hour days for several days, and the road commission's entire fleet of 44 trucks will be deployed, Harmon said.
"We don't attend to those secondary roads during major events until the main roads are clear and open," Harmon said. "It simply takes time, and when you have low visibility and wind, it's hard to make a lot of progress."
Check for the latest weather updates on AnnArbor.com's weather page.