TRAVERSE CITY — Insurance adjusters are bound to be busy over the next couple of weeks after nearly 100 traffic crashes were reported in the region during winter’s first big blast.
There were 61 snow- and ice-related crashes reported in Grand Traverse County between 4 p.m. and 10 p.m. Thursday — a number that is much higher than what is usually reported during bad weather, said Capt. Randy Fewless from the Grand Traverse Sheriff Department.
Another dozen or so crashes, rollovers and vehicles that ended up in ditches were reported in Leelanau County late Wednesday and throughout Thursday, including a semi tractor-trailer that jackknifed at about 6 p.m. on ‘Radio Hill’ on M-72 in the southeastern corner of the county.
In Antrim County there were 85 separate “weather-related events” on Thursday, though not all were traffic crashes, according to Sheriff Dan Bean. Still, cars in ditches and semis stuck on hills had his department busier than usual.
“We’ve got some pretty good hills around here,” Bean said. “I can’t remember it being this busy.”
Bean thinks maybe drivers were caught unaware because the first snowstorm doesn’t usually hit until late November or early December.
Fewless said most of the Grand Traverse crashes were minor and injury-free, Fewless said.
“Most were low speed-type crashes,” Fewless said. “People were traveling at a slower rate of speed because the roads were so bad.”
In Leelanau, the jackknifed semi had the road closed down and traffic rerouted for about three hours while the scene was cleared and the road commission could plow, sand and salt the state highway.
“That’s a really tough hill in the winter,” said Leelanau Sheriff Mike Borkovich. “That’s evidenced by a runaway ramp. If it’s bad for trucks it’s bad for cars, too.”
Snowfall around the region varied, with Beulah in Benzie County getting 2 inches, while a foot fell on Fife Lake in the southeast portion of the county.
“That was the winner,” said Sabrina Jauernic, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Gaylord.
The rest of Grand Traverse County saw about 8-9 inches, resulting in the first snow day of the year for students in Traverse City Area Public Schools.
“Yesterday we tended to have certain areas of the county that were in worse condition than others,” Fewless said.
Roads in Peninsula Township were “impassable” in the morning, he said, while Long Lake Township roads felt the brunt of the bad weather in the evening.
Mancelona in southern Antrim County also got 12 inches, Kalkaska saw about 11 inches and Leelanau County reported 5 inches, Jauernic said. Snow there is measured in Bingham Township.
There were at least a dozen minor crashes, rollovers and car vs. tree collisions in both Kalkaska and Benzie counties.
“The roads were horrible,” said Benzie Sheriff Ted Schendel. “All we were doing the last couple days was going to accidents. This was the first freeze over snow we’ve had, so people need to be reminded to slow down.”
Low temperatures were as much to blame as the snow, Schendel said.
“Once you get below a certain temperature the salt doesn’t work anymore,” he said.
Fewless said people need to go extra slow when they see a crash scene.
“Where there’s one accident there’s a potential to be more,” Fewless said.