BY LINDSAY VANHULLE
TRAVERSE CITY — On snowy nights, Chris Kroupa’s job begins after dark.
He often starts his plow truck before 2 a.m., surveys commercial parking lots and calls in his two employees to discuss the night’s plan.
But Kroupa knows by now that any plans he makes might be rendered obsolete in a matter of hours. Take Monday, for instance. A lake-effect snow system picked up overnight, after his crews already had plowed and salted several lots.
“It’s just part of the career that I’ve chosen,” said Kroupa, owner of Landgreen Lawncare, who clears snow from parking lots and driveways within Traverse City limits, on Old Mission Peninsula and on the west side of Grand Traverse County.
“It’s usually not until a day like today when we get several calls because of the amount of snow,” he said Monday morning. “I’ve been on the phone for pretty much the last couple hours.”
Winter is here, if not officially than certainly in spirit. The region is tangled in a lake-effect snow band that is most intense west of Interstate 75 toward the Lake Michigan shoreline.
A North Atlantic storm system pushed into Quebec at the same time high pressure moved into the Great Plains, leaving the Great Lakes region caught in the middle, said Scott Rozanski, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Gaylord.
Lake Michigan is still warm, so lake-effect conditions were prime as cold air entered. About nine inches fell in the Traverse City area from Sunday to Monday, with some spots generating a foot of fresh powder, said NWS meteorologist Brian Adam. Part of northern Missaukee County received nearly a foot.
The system should begin to taper off today, with snow falling less persistently through the end of the week, Rozanski said. High temperatures are expected to be in the mid-20s, with lows in the teens.
Because the ground hasn’t frozen yet, snow and wind created slick road conditions. Trouble spots Monday included areas near Hobbs Highway, River Road and Garfield Road, Grand Traverse County sheriff’s Lt. Bryan Marrow said.
A majority of the day’s calls were for cars that slid off of the road, Marrow said, adding that more incidents were reported when snow fell in late November.
“For the volume, how fast it’s coming down, it hasn’t been all that bad for us,” Marrow said. “It’s been far less busy than it was then.”
Weekend traffic incidents sent at least five vehicles Monday to Sonny’s Body Shop in Traverse City.
Co-owner Robert Valleau said four repair estimates were done in the morning, with a fifth — a rollover crash — scheduled to be towed in sometime that day.
“The first snow, of course everybody forgets how to drive in it,” he said. “Usually, we stay pretty steady through the winter, as long as there’s snow.”
Grand Traverse County’s road commission on Sunday sent 16 trucks out during the day and six at night, said Jim Valade, maintenance supervisor.
All 27 crews were out Monday, and focused on state highways and main county roads because of how fast snow fell, Valade said.
By noon, South Airport Road had been plowed “probably 15 times,” he said. Some secondary roads and subdivisions might not be cleared until today or Wednesday.
“We’re cleaning up from (Sunday) and then dealing with what we’re getting today,” said Jim Bowers, superintendent of the Benzie County Road Commission, which activated all 16 of its trucks Monday. Four only handled state highways.
Grand Traverse County last week had about 13,000 tons of salt, a good portion left over from last year’s drier season. Benzie County has roughly 7,500 tons.
Paul Goodman, who lives in Florida during the summer, left the warm weather and beaches in August to get a taste of a northern Michigan winter.
Goodman, of Beulah, found exactly that Monday as he braved the roads to go shopping in Traverse City. He said he never exceeded 45 mph on his wintry trek to avoid an accident.
“I’ve never been a beach person,” he said. “I really want the scenery.”
Staff writer Alex Piazza contributed to this report.
BY LINDSAY VANHULLE
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