TRAVERSE CITY — Whiteout conditions and below-zero temperatures slowed traffic and shuttered schools in the Grand Traverse area for a second straight day, but a respite is on the way.
“(Today) is going to be the last day of it,” National Weather Service Meteorologist John Boris said of this morning’s bone-chilling cold, adding temperatures should slowly rise through the week and into the mid-30s by the weekend.
Warmer temperatures will seem a season away today though as the powerful arctic air mass that rolled into northwest lower Michigan will make this morning the most frigid of the winter so far. Windy conditions make it feel even colder, with wind chills dropping to close to 30 below zero today.
The brutal cold caused school closures throughout the region. Traverse City Area Public Schools canceled classes for today, as did schools in Benzie, Leelanau, Kalkaska and Antrim counties.
The weather also deterred bus service. The Bay Area Transit Authority and the Benzie Bus both scaled back services due to weather on Monday. The Benzie Bus also planned to cut services today.
Grand Traverse County Road Commission crews plowed county roads to alleviate the conditions as much as possible.
“It’s windy, hard to see and it’s just all around cold and tough driving conditions,” snow plow driver Jeff Newman said during a break in a 12-hour shift Monday.
Newman said the biggest challenge for road crews isn’t the weather. It’s other drivers.
“The traffic is not allowing us enough space and room, or to turn around in intersections,” Newman said. “It’s really the problem.”
Emergency personnel and law enforcement agencies reported several slide offs and other minor crashes across the Grand Traverse area. Vance Stringham, Grand Traverse 911’s administrative supervisor, said dispatchers received a steady stream of calls about traffic problems, accidents and other weather-related issues. Leelanau County Undersheriff Steve Morgan encouraged people to stay off the roads if possible.
But many still braved the bad weather and tried to make the best of northern Michigan’s snow and cold.
“It’s part of life,” said Nick Kummer of Traverse City. “Things have got to go on.”
Ronald Runyan, of Interlochen, said there’s no upside to the frigid temperatures. Runyan said this week’s weather is some of the worst he’s seen in his more than 20 years in the area.
“They always say, ‘Wait five minutes outside and you can find out what it’s like,’” Runyan said. “But if you wait five minutes out there, you’ll be buried in snow.”
The Grand Traverse region is not alone in its weather woes. Most of Michigan — indeed much of the country — is in the throes of some of the worst winter weather in recent memory. Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder even doled out safety advice during a press conference Monday afternoon.
“Stay inside as much as you can, stay warm,” Synder said. “If you’re out driving, go slow. If you think you’re going slow enough, you might want to go a little slower and be safe for the next day or so.”
Record-Eagle staff writers Michelle Merlin, Matt Troutman and Nathan Payne contributed to this report.