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Posted on Thu, Feb 23, 2012 : 2:59 p.m.

Winter storm warning: Hazardous overnight travel, messy morning commute expected

By Cindy Heflin

Motorists be warned: A winter storm headed for Ann Arbor could result in very difficult travel conditions Thursday night and a messy morning commute Friday.

The National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning for Washtenaw County Thursday afternoon. There's even a possibility for thundersnow. Exactly how much snow we’ll get depends on how the storm tracks, but it has the potential to be the biggest snowfall of the season so far. If the storm tracks more to the north, we’ll get less snow; if it goes more to the south, we’ll get more.

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Motorists may find challenging travel conditions Thursday night and Friday morning as a winter storm moves through Ann Arbor.

The storm warning is in effect from 10 p.m. Thursday to 7 p.m. Friday.

In the Ann Arbor area, the storm is expected to arrive Thursday evening with a mix of rain and snow, said Rachel Kulik, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in White Lake Township. It will change to all snow by about 10 p.m. with 2 to 4 inches expected to accumulate overnight. A few rumbles of thunder are even possible.

The Weather Service expects another 2 to 4 inches to fall during the day Friday with a storm total of about 6 inches. Snow is expected to end around 1 p.m. but blowing snow could continue to affect travel through much of the day Friday.

The Washtenaw County Road Commission is geared up for the storm’s arrival, said Jim Harmon, director of operations, but he warned motorists may find hazardous travel conditions overnight, and depending on how fast snow is falling Friday morning, a challenging Friday morning commute.

“We just don’t have the resources where we can have a full crew deployment 24 hours a day,” he said. “Tonight if conditions worsen, motorists might just have to contend with that situation. “

Drivers are facing a long day Friday, and possible a long day Saturday as well to finish clean up. While drivers can work a double shift, the Road Commission must be careful not to push workers to the point that it’s unsafe, he sad.

Road crews normally end their workday at 3:30 p.m. A four-person crew starts at 8 p.m., focusing on state trunk lines, which consist of interstates and major thoroughfares. Supervisors will be monitoring the forecast and conditions and may call in additional drivers at any time, Harmon said.

But officials must be wary of overworking drivers and need to plan to make the best use of available resources.

“We look at the storm in its entirety. We don’t want to bring everything to bear at the beginning and burn ourselves out,” he said.

Thursday afternoon, Harmon was expecting to call in crews in the early morning, probably 3 or 4 a.m. to get roads in the best possible shape for the morning rush hour. “But the storm could be intense enough during morning rush hour that we can’t keep up with it.”

Harmon said drivers would likely work all day Friday on major roads doing cleanup. He expects drivers will spend Saturday plowing gravel roads and subdivision streets.

Mike Samborn isn’t convinced there’ll be all that much snow to plow. “I don’t think we’re going to get a whole lot. It doesn’t ever seem that we get nearly what they say.”

Samborn works at Stadium Hardware on the west side of Ann Arbor. Customers there don’t seem too worried. “I’ve seen one person looking at shovels but that’s about it.”

For updated forecasts and conditions anytime, check's weather page.

Contact Cindy Heflin at or 734-623-2572 or follow her on Twitter.



Fri, Feb 24, 2012 : 8:41 p.m.

Well, if you consider the fact that our biggest snow fall to date was about...oh...2 inches, and I'm looking out my window, and it's still coming down, and melting in the street, I predict 3 inches...if that...


Fri, Feb 24, 2012 : 8:46 p.m.

Oops. Had a Senior moment there...already posted Emily Litella would say: "Never Mind"


Fri, Feb 24, 2012 : 5:25 a.m.

Wait, haven't we seen this exact same article like two times before? I guess third times a charm. And they might be right this time. Someone said to me that a Weather Forecaster is the only one who can be wrong all the time and still have a job.


Fri, Feb 24, 2012 : 8:44 p.m.

Hey! I want the Weather Forecaster job. I could do that. Sit in a chair. Look at my outdoor the clouds...notice the season...except this one. I wonder how much they get paid?


Fri, Feb 24, 2012 : 4:29 a.m.

The problem is not the snow, it's the city and county's failure to keep the roads safe. This must be a running joke at road commissions as the cars pile up in ditches and slam into guardrails. ....but AA Council is more worried about what people do in their cars since that's a great place to COLLECT MONEY... Lets pass a ballot initiative that makes City Council Members and the Road Commissioners personally liable for the damage caused when they fail to clear the roads of ice and snow!!


Fri, Feb 24, 2012 : 6 a.m.

I agree!! Well said!


Fri, Feb 24, 2012 : 2:22 a.m.

"The wolf is coming, ....the wolf is coming". One day, the wolf comes,....


Fri, Feb 24, 2012 : 2:08 a.m.

Slow news day?


Fri, Feb 24, 2012 : 12:15 a.m.

Time to haul out the sled dog team if we get a much snow as we are hyped up to get.


Thu, Feb 23, 2012 : 11:09 p.m.

I think they should cancel the Ann Arbor schools tonight in advance. Oh yeah, they're already closed.

A A Resident

Thu, Feb 23, 2012 : 10:37 p.m.

"Drivers are facing a long day Friday, and possible a long day Saturday as well to finish clean up. While drivers can work a double shift, the Road Commission must be careful not to push workers to the point that it's unsafe, he sad. Road crews normally end their workday at 3:30 p.m. A four-person crew starts at 8 p.m., focusing on state trunk lines, which consist of interstates and major thoroughfares." ___________________ So what's up with that? Private snow removal businesses will work as long as it takes to get the job done. Perhaps the County should consider hiring some of these people?


Fri, Feb 24, 2012 : 1:25 a.m.

AA resident, would that be legal driving that comerical vehicle that long? I don't think so, do you even know how hard that is plowing all day dealing with all those drivers on the highway? It is nothing like plowing parking lots all day and night, they need rest to. If it had starting snowing before 3:30pm the crews would have stayed till 8pm and back at 4am.


Thu, Feb 23, 2012 : 11:04 p.m.

All we will be clearing is slush and mush. The rain on Saturday will send it spiraling down the drain.

Steven Harper Piziks

Thu, Feb 23, 2012 : 10:46 p.m.

Private companies don't clear highways at 50 miles an hour and generally don't have to worry about snowplow drivers falling asleep at the wheel while on their second 12-hour shift.


Thu, Feb 23, 2012 : 10:19 p.m.

I will not complain. A very mild winter and I have expected Mother Nature still might give us a good spanking or two before Spring, but this late in the winter, I guess it won't last long.

Diana Hunt

Thu, Feb 23, 2012 : 10:16 p.m.

As the wife of a former City employee and snowplow driver, I'd like to see more coverage of the hazards of driving a snowplow and the perils of getting in one's way. People need to know that plows have to move at speed to push heavy, wet snow, and if they have to stop, it's hard to get them moving again. We know of a situation in which a person jumped in front of a plow to get the driver to pull his car out of a drift. The driver had to hit the car in order to avoid killing the person! Please, folks, be careful around the plows and don't expect miracles in speed of clearing the roads. These guys are hard workers doing the best they can for you.

Ann English

Thu, Feb 23, 2012 : 11:49 p.m.

I see. You're saying that snowplows need momentum to push snow similar to what I expect we'll get tonight: a lot of wet snow. Rocking a car out of a place it was stuck in is another use of momentum. Without momentum, second parties are needed to resume the movement.


Thu, Feb 23, 2012 : 10:02 p.m.

its supposed to be 35 or above for a high the next five days so how bad can it be?It should melt or turn to rain after the morning drive


Thu, Feb 23, 2012 : 10 p.m.

We'll see brown grass by Monday afternoon. Welcome to Cincinnati, I mean Ann Arbor.


Thu, Feb 23, 2012 : 11:02 p.m.

More like Montana in June is all this weather has been. Good nite weather forecasters give it a rest will you?

Bertha Venation

Thu, Feb 23, 2012 : 9:39 p.m.

I'd better stop by the liquor store on the way home and pick up a "snow shovel." (ya.... that's it... a "snow shovel.")


Thu, Feb 23, 2012 : 11:02 p.m.

Do you want me to bring the ice and hor dorves?


Thu, Feb 23, 2012 : 8:50 p.m.

Geez, thanks for quoting that hardware guy. That really makes me feel a lot better about this impending storm.


Fri, Feb 24, 2012 : 12:17 a.m.

I'm glad Meijer doesn't sell used snow shovels...that would be bad.

Ann English

Thu, Feb 23, 2012 : 11:42 p.m.

While at Meijer this afternoon, I saw someone's young son carrying a brand new snow shovel.


Thu, Feb 23, 2012 : 11:01 p.m.

That and the bread and the milk and what ever else is needed to keep the carbs going until we are buried out from under which will be the likes of more rain then snow. We will no snow and a lot of hum bug.


Thu, Feb 23, 2012 : 9:31 p.m.

I'm pretty sure everybody stockpiled up on snow removal equipment during the first 3 or 4 false alarms we've had already this winter.

Henry Martin Lederman

Thu, Feb 23, 2012 : 8:49 p.m.



Thu, Feb 23, 2012 : 8:36 p.m.

Snew, whats snew with you?


Thu, Feb 23, 2012 : 8:45 p.m.

Thanks I needed the laugh


Thu, Feb 23, 2012 : 8:31 p.m.

It's just a mild snowstorm, and we live in Michigan. So basically we're in for a weekend of winter, which we should be more than ready for since we have yet to have a real winter so far.

paul wiener

Thu, Feb 23, 2012 : 8:27 p.m.

How much snow will we get? Gosh, that's a news item that's really being well-covered. There's been quite a lot of reportage on it from many sources and venues. I've thought quite a lot about it too and have decided that we'll get between 19 and 22 inches, depending on the storm track. I could be wrong.


Thu, Feb 23, 2012 : 9:57 p.m.

I like to take the highest predicted snowfall and divide it by today's high temperature. In this case, 8 inches of snow/41°F = not quite 2/10ths of an inch of snow - evenly distributed everywhere except at the end of my driveway, which will receive about 1.5 (metric) tons of "imported" snow, compliments of the WCRC.

Craig Lounsbury

Thu, Feb 23, 2012 : 9:01 p.m.

what I do is add the totals from each news story I see. At the moment I'm thinking 6-12 feet.