When I arrived in Kalamazoo this morning, the snow hadn't yet arrived. Parked at 10:02am just as a fine powdery snow began to fall and turn wet on the warm windshield. By the time I'd grabbed my heavy winter coat and put it on, grabbed my stuff and started across the parking lot at 10:03am, the cold ground and pavement was all covered in the thinnest of pure white layers. When I crossed between Everett Tower and Rood Hall for my 11 o'clock class, there was a couple of inches of snow churned up by the parade of walkers on the sidewalk. The promised winter storm, advertised as worse in a line south of Allegan MI and towards the lake and the Indiana border, had arrived.
My Friday schedule has an hour in the Physics Help Room at noon, after my one class, and since no one is scheduled in the hour afterward, I sometimes stay over for a while to make sure people get their questions answered. So in theory I could've left after 1pm, but in reality I headed back up to my office around two. Did a few things, packed up and trudged out through the heavy wet snow that had built up in four hours. Some of the snow on the hood and the roof of the Blazer was 4-6" deep already. Logged out of the parking lot at 2:29pm.
Took me two hours and fifty-five minutes to get home. Sigh. The weather forecasters had been saying that there was one model which was predicting 8" of snow on Friday. The models also had the snow in Grand Rapids not starting til noon and not amounting to too much accumulation. In fact, while it was deeper in Kalamazoo, it didn't lessen all that much as I headed north.
In retrospect it was probably a good thing I didn't leave earlier. Kept driving by cars which had slid off the roads and down the embankments into the fields along the side -- and there was no longer any trace of the tire tracks either on the highway, shoulder or down the hills. My guess is that early on too many people didn't appreciate that the wet snow and the near freezing temps were creating very slippery situations. In my case, most people drove in an orderly fashion, not too fast, no one was sliding around and people respected brake lights, flashing police lights and I wasn't the only one who bothered to put on flashers when there was clearly trouble ahead. Four wheel drive and geared down seemed to be stable, I never felt any slippages.
And while I saw lots of police vehicles from various jurisdictions, starting just outside the university, and quite a number of tow trucks and flatbed tows, I didn't see a single snow plow during the three hours.
An hour into the trip, WLAV-FM got their afternoon traffic person in to start letting people know early what the roads were like -- they had a two-page list of problems. A couple of semi trucks on some of the freeways found themselves unable to drive up icy ramps at exits. A while back when this happened during this exceptionally icy winter, I heard a news report where the state police explained that truckers are NOT supposed to try to back down icy ramps if they get stuck, so blocking the exit is the only thing that can be done until they get the truck tow vehicles there. Fortunately, that was past where I would turn off US-131 and I think going the other way.
An Interesting Moment
Wilson Avenue, from 28th Street & I-196 to Lake Michigan Drive M-45, was very slow going in both directions. There's a large curving hill coming up from the Grand River crossing and it soon became clear that some of the cars were having trouble. I saw this one front wheel drive compact car move from left to right lane and then keep sliding forward towards the curb and they'd have to stop and try to back up a bit and straighten out. Fortunately no one seemed to hit anybody, at least then. There were later radio reports of crashed on Wilson in that area.
But as we slowed down to a crawl, especially when the two northbound lanes merged into one, I rolled down my window at one point, listening to the cars in the other direction crunching over the lumpy ice on the road. In fact, it looked pretty thick -- perhaps between 1/2" and 1" thick -- and had that milky white look you see on hockey rinks.
What was really interesting, however, was the loud cracking sound as cars rolled by. I couldn't see any cracks, but I was immediately struck by how much this reminded me of the cable show Ice Road Truckers this past year. The good news was that there wasn't several hundred feet of water underneath that cracking ice. (grin)
Home At Last
Eventually I got home. The last I looked outside, the winds had picked up and the snow was still raging. It is supposed to last until sometime after midnight. We'll see how the rest of the weekend develops, but this is a spring winter storm. I imagine it will get pretty sloppy, but it shan't last.
I did what I could, warning my students yesterday that, although I don't advocate cutting classes, if they had far to travel for the Easter weekend, they might want to leave well before Friday afternoon. Looks to me like it was good advice. Unfortunately, I had teaching obligations, so couldn't avail of it myself. (double-edged-grin)