TRAVERSE CITY — Maybe it’s a bit too much to say the snow seems to be piled sky high, but it is heaped higher than pickup trucks on Fox Road near Bartlett Lake in Buckley.
“This morning, it’s like we got caught right in the eye of the new polar vortex,” said Joe Schichtel, owner of Schichtel Nursery & Vineyard on Fox Road. “It’s like a nuclear snowstorm.”
Schichtel estimates the snowbanks on the corner of Fox Road were among the tallest in the county, and the Grand Traverse Road Commission had to send a V-plow to try to clear roads in the area.
“It is remarkably reminiscent of the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s when we used to get a hell of a winter,” Schichtel said.
Another gust of arctic air accompanied by snow pushed Traverse City past the 100 inches of snowfall mark, according to National Weather Service estimates.
Others believe snowfall totals long ago cruised past that level. Grand Traverse County Road Commission officials said they’ve measured 142 inches of snow thus far this winter season.
Traverse City residents can expect another five to seven inches of snow from Monday through Wednesday morning, and temperatures won’t reach double digits until Thursday, said Tim Locker, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Gaylord.
“It’s colder than average; it’s just not record setting,” Locker said.
Cold weather and poor road conditions caused Traverse City Area Public Schools and others to close on Friday and Monday.
Monday marked TCAPS sixth weather-related cancellation, and any more snow days could result in additional school days in June. By Monday afternoon district officials decided to cancel Tuesday classes, as well.
“It’s not good for students to be away from their classmates,” said Rob Hansen, the head of the Pathfinder School in Leelanau County, which has also had six snow days. “Teachers are very set back by snow days. We do our best to send assignments home and communicate online, but nothing can replace that social dynamic in the classroom.”
Hansen said maintaining a safe school in this weather is also difficult. Maintenance employees constantly clear snow from roofs and walkways, he said.
Grand Traverse County Road Commission officials urged drivers to stay off the roads because of poor visibility Monday.
“This weekend we had roads that our big plow trucks couldn’t break through,” said Jim Cook, road commission manager. “Our guys worked 12- or 14-hour shifts on Saturday basically trying to deal with blowing or drifting snow. We actually brought out our big road grader with a wing plow.”
Continuous wind throughout the weekend and into Monday forced crews to focus on keeping main roads passable, Cook said. Most subdivision roads have gotten only a single pass from a plow truck each day because of the constant work to keep the arterial roads clear.
Road salt has been largely ineffective this winter because it only melts snow and ice when temperatures are around 20 degrees.
The Benzie County Road Commission was forced to order more dirt to spread on roads, thanks to the constant cold temperatures.
The county started with 10,000 yards of sand it ordered in the spring, but officials worry supplies won’t last through the winter. County officials ordered 1,500 more yards of sand this winter, and will have to pay 3.5 times more for it than in the spring, said Heather Jamison, the Benzie County Road Commission manager.
“The best you can do is apply more sand so commuters can have traction,” she said.
Traction is less important for snowmobilers, who are taking advantage of this year’s snow.
Joe Lauka, the proprietor of Settings Restaurant in Mancelona, an eatery that sits along snowmobile trails, said business has been steady, but single-digit weather caused some riders to choose to go into town and watch a movie or stop in a restaurant instead of spending the day on the trails.
“I’ve heard people say it’s way too cold to ride,” Lauka said. “As soon as temperatures got into the teens, that all changed.”
The local snowmobile industry is being negatively impacted by statewide snow, Lauka said.
“I think a lot of them are making the decision they can ride locally,” Lauka said. “It doesn’t happen too often that you can ride downstate and enjoy it.”
Staff writer NATHAN PAYNE contributed to this story.