Icy grip of winter takes hold in Tri-City area

Plow truck makes its way down Old M-21 near the intersection of M-53 during blizzard-like conditions on Monday afternoon. photo by Maria Brown.

TRI-CITY AREA — First it was the snow and now the bitter cold will sweep over the Tri-City area.

According to the National Weather Service, between 4-6 inches of snow fell over Lapeer and St. Clair counties on Monday. On Tuesday, an official wind chill warning went into effect at 6 p.m. and extends through Thursday morning. Both days, weather service forecasters say the outdoor temperatures will feel like -30 degrees Fahrenheit.

In St. Clair County, officials are encouraging the public to visit warming centers as needed during the height of the cold. Locally, that includes the Capac Library and Conrad Community Center.

County facilities, including library branches, closed on Monday during the height of the snowstorm but all buildings reopened on Tuesday morning.

The library’s hours of operations are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. today (Jan. 30) and 12-8 p.m. on Thursday.

On the roads, I-69 was closed for several hours in Lapeer County due to a multi-vehicle accident on the westbound lanes.

In advance of the storm, the Lapeer County Road Commission warned that conditions—particularly the cold and wind—would make clearing roads a challenge.

On Monday, crews worked until 10 p.m. and returned to their plow trucks at 3 a.m. on Tuesday, according to the agency’s Facebook page.

The snow and cold continues to impact local school districts too.

As of Tuesday, Capac Community Schools had logged seven school day cancellations and, Supt. Jeff Terpenning warned, more were likely to occur this week.

In a message on Facebook to parents and students, Terpenning discussed how school closing decisions are made and how it might impact the school year calendar.

The state allows districts to cancel six days during the school year due to inclement weather, he noted, but in the past, officials have granted their petitions to forgive up to three more days.

“Should we go over our maximum allowed days, we will have to figure out a method to make up the days. The district and the unions would then work together to look at all options and establish a method to make the required number of days up. This could include extending the school year past our current last day of school which is June 12th,” Terpenning said.

Because of the closures, Capac students are missing out on Snowcoming festivities. On Tuesday morning, the school announced that Saturday’s Snowcoming dance had been rescheduled but the pep assembly and halftime festivities on Friday were still on.

State of Emergency

On Monday evening, Jan. 28, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed an order declaring a state of emergency in Michigan to help address threats to public health and safety related to forecast sub-zero temperatures over the next few days.

“Keeping Michiganders safe during this stretch of dangerously cold temperatures is our priority,” said Gov. Whitmer in a press release. “Such widespread, extreme conditions have not occurred in Michigan for many years and it is imperative that we are proactive with record-low temperatures being predicted by the National Weather Service. Wind chills are predicted as low as 50 degrees below zero in many places, such as metro Detroit which is especially unaccustomed to these temps.”

With a winter storm impacting much of the Lower Peninsula and statewide temperatures forecast to hover around 0 degrees with wind chills at 50 below or colder in some areas, the state is actively working with local communities and emergency management partners to ensure they have all the resources they need to respond, the press release says. Conditions and needs will be continually assessed, and appropriate action will be taken as warranted to protect public health and safety.

In addition to the emergency declaration, Gov. Whitmer has activated the State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC). Located at Michigan State Police (MSP) Headquarters in Dimondale, the center is overseen by the Michigan State Police, Emergency Management and Homeland Security Division (MSP/EMHSD) and coordinates response and recovery efforts by state agencies and local government.

The SEOC is staffed by members of state agencies and other partners for decision making and information coordination during disasters or emergencies in the state of Michigan.