BY ANNE STANTON
TRAVERSE CITY — Winter's first big storm is on the move, and the Red Cross of Northwest of Michigan has volunteers on standby. Road commissions, meanwhile, are ready to clear miles of roadways.
"We're worried about a repeat of March," said Joe Nedow, finance manager for the Leelanau County Road Commission. "We're worried about high winds and trees more than anything else, even though we've already cleared a lot of dead trees in the right-of-way."
Salt and sand have been pre-mixed and road crews are poised to clear more than 800 miles of roads, Nedow said.
Last year's freak March storm also was on Brad Schaub's mind. He is superintendent of the Benzie County Road Commission.
He predicted that the area will initially get wet, heavy snow with Thursday's forecasted temperatures in the mid-30s. He hopes the snow won't fall quite as fast as last March.
"Wet, heavy snow is a lot harder to get off the roads because it sticks and irons itself down. It takes a lot more to get off the roadway," Schaub said.
The Red Cross is ready to open shelters in the event of a mass power outage or other service interruptions. Officials encourage area residents to gather emergency supplies, including a 3-day supply of water and food, flashlights and extra batteries, a first-aid kit, medications, and supplies for babies and pets.
A predicted dump of up to 16 inches of snow over the next two days is joyous news for students anxious to sled, snowboard and ski during their holiday break, But it's a chilling inconvenience for those driving downstate to visit friends and relatives.
The National Weather Service warns that driving conditions will quickly turn treacherous because of snow-covered and slick roads. Falling, drifting and blowing snow will make it difficult for drivers to see the road.
Snow was predicted to begin today at daybreak and fall most heavily between 1 p.m. and midnight, blanketing the area with up to 10 inches of snow, said meteorologist Scott Rozanski of the National Weather Service in Gaylord.
Snow will continue into Friday with another three to five inches of accumulation, he said.
Today's temperatures will range in the mid-30s with blowing snow and winds in the 15 to 25 mile range. On Friday, winds will crank up to 50 miles per hour with temperatures dropping as low as 30 degrees, Rozanski said.
Look for a calmer and colder Saturday with light snow showers, partly sunny skies and seasonal temperatures dropping into the mid 20s, Rozanski said.
And for those driving downstate?
"The further south you get, the less and less snow you'll see. You'll still have snow, and by Friday a lot of the cold air will come in," Rozanski said.