It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas | Local News
TRAVERSE CITY — Christmas weekend’s blizzard hit the Great Lakes region, with forecasts showing more snow and wild winds yet to come.
A low-pressure system that brought wintry weather was already moving past Michigan and into Canada Friday, said Harold Dippman, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Gaylord. But bitingly cold winds were expected to pick up Friday afternoon, with forecasts calling for gusts up to 45 mph and wind chills in the negative numbers.
“When you’ve got wind like this blowing snow around, I mean it doesn’t take much snow for there to be drastic impacts,” he said.
Cold air and high winds trailing the low-pressure system will churn up lake-effect snow that could dump more snow along the Lake Michigan shore Saturday, Dippman said. Antrim, Charlevoix, Crawford, Kalkaska and Otsego counties were expected to get the worst of it, with up to 12 inches more expected in — and west of — Gaylord.
Windy conditions will drive that lake-effect snow farther inland, even to places that don’t typically see it, Dippman said.
“If you’re in a lake-effect belt this weekend, you’re going to be getting plentiful amounts of snow,” he said.
Travel conditions could be complicated Saturday, since the storm already prompted airlines to cancel flights throughout the region.
Cherry Capital Airport’s online flight tracker showed seven of the nine arrivals scheduled for Friday were canceled as of 2:30 pm That number was among 4,546 canceled flights within, into or leaving the US, with 5,986 more delayed, according to FlightAware.
Public transit authorities across northern Michigan mostly parked their buses Friday. Bay Area Transportation Authority scrapped all services through Monday, except on-demand rides Friday and Saturday, according to a release.
They weren’t alone: Benzie Bus dropped all rides for Friday, with the expectation their service would resume Monday; and Manistee County Transportation closed Saturday, citing inclement weather.
On the roads, Grand Traverse Road Commission crews were keeping up with the snow as of early Friday afternoon, Road Commission Manager Brad Kluczynski said. The highways and main roads were in good shape, so a few drivers even had time to bust some drifts in the subdivisions.
But Kluczynski noted forecasts calling for the weather to worsen overnight Friday.
“If it gets worse, we’re ready for it. The guys are out right now and we’ve got a full crew going,” he said. “We’ll keep up with it, unless we suddenly get a change in temperature and it starts getting warm and we get some slippery stuff on top of the polish we have.”
Michigan Department of Transportation plow drivers also were ready for nasty weather in Kalkaska County, said MDOT spokesman James Lake. It’s one of the few counties in the northwestern Lower Peninsula where that department has its own garage, trucks and crews instead of contracting with the county road commission.
Conditions as of Friday weren’t as bad as originally feared, Lake said. But he wasn’t about to declare victory.
“It’s too early to say we’re out of the woods for this storm,” he added.
The advance warning gave the crews time to prepare by swapping in fresh plow blades and getting salt ready, Lake said. It also gave the crews a chance to rest.
Blustery winds can topple power lines, and Cherryland Electric Cooperative’s line crews were on standby Friday to fix any outages, co-op communications specialist Courtney Doyle said. The utility has four more contractor crews available through the holiday weekend, too.
“At this point, we’re just kind of watching to see what happens,” she said. “We do a lot of updates on the system year-round every year in order to make it as strong as possible, so we’re hoping so far, so good.”
Road conditions are a concern for power line crews, although their trucks are large enough to pass through less than ideal conditions, Doyle said.
Lake pointed out that the repeated urges from public safety officials to avoid any unnecessary travel still stands.
“Even though people in this area oftentimes have all-wheel drive and make sure they have good tires, and are accomplished winter drivers, when visibility is diminished due to blowing snow and high winds, there’s no substitute for being able to see where you’ re going,” he said.
Kluczynski agreed that’s the official line, but he and his crews saw drivers out Friday — traffic cameras throughout the region showed the same — especially at the Traverse City area’s busiest intersections.
Traffic volumes were down, but people were still out doing some last-minute Christmas shopping.
“So they’re going to be out, but, yeah, if people don’t need to be, definitely try and avoid it,” Kluczynski said.
Snow is predicted to stop by Christmas Day, and the cold isn’t expected to last.
Temperatures could climb to 44 by Thursday, according to the NWS.