Our storm arrived slyly and subtly in the morning. Winter Weather Watch started at 7am and by 7am there was a very slight dusting of snow. Except what they hadn't counted on was the freezing rain and drizzle which preceded it, which meant that the snow froze into ice and slushy freezy stuff which the early commuters began to slither around on. We'd had so many days of clear weather, that the news last night assured everyone that the local highway crews had plenty of salt, chemicals, time and overtime available. And that they'd be on the early snow with chemicals to keep it from freezing.
The drive in was slow, the roads quite slickery. Along the way I saw numerous vehicles sitting in odd places in the medians and off the sides of the road. Kept speeds to around 40-55mph. It took 2 hours 15 minutes to get in, roughly an hour longer than usual. One real mess somewhere around Martin MI, I guess. Traffic slowed, I could see the left hand lane was blocked by a police cruiser, so we all moved over to the right. Except for a few yahoos who had to rush to the front of the line. And one minivan who apparently was oblivious to all the stopped cars, because at one point I glanced in my mirror and realized there was a minivan spun out in the median -- braked too hard on slick roads, methinks. One of the tow trucks lined up to clear the aforementioned mess ahead backed up and pulled the idiots out of the median.
Fire and rescue and police lined up to assist.
On the left was a pickup truck with its front smashed in (inset) -- the other side was much worse, completely flattened. One suspects it was run over or against this truck.
It seemed to me that if the roads were this bad before the bulk of the snow fell and the wind picked up tonight, that the roads were going to be bad and worse on Wednesday. That and we haven't had many winter storms lately, so I imagined that many of the local drivers were going to forget how to drive on this stuff and make everything worse. So rather than keep my students in suspense, I pulled the trigger as soon as I got in and informed everyone that I was not tempting the roads tomorrow. Classes canceled.
The Drive Homeward
The snow on the Blazer when I got out at nearly 4:30pm was quite wet -- the temp had risen closer to the freezing/melting mark -- so it slid off the metal and glass quite easily. But it also made a thickening slurry on the ground that was hard to walk on and obviously difficult to drive on. Couldn't believe this one person being interviewed on the radio saying something along the lines of the snow storm being a bust, because the snow total wasn't all that large yet. This as the road reports were quoting the local counties as saying that the slide offs, rollovers and crashes were "too numerous to count".
Long line of traffic backed up for miles going the other way at the Kent/Allegan County border, due to a wreck which had smashed and spilled the contents of one of those fragile sheet metal snowmobile trailers across the lanes. It is nice that my commute goes against the grain of most Grand Rapids commuters. Note Rodney supervising the driving on the dashboard.
Taking the 270° loop from US-131 north to M-6 west at 25-30mph, I noticed a lot of tire tracks in the slush sliding off to either side or making spinning patterns. Except for one set which made a rather severe angle of departure to the inside curve. Sighting down the lines which went over the edge of the shoulder, I realized there was a minivan down in the bowl of the interchange, some 30-50 feet down. Huh. "I don't think you're supposed to be drivin' down there, y'hear?"
The Last Miles
Heading up the hill toward Mottman's on M-45, there was a bottleneck similar to one I had the other night due to a crash. But this time it was due to a ½-wheel drive vehicle barely moving in the left hand lane up the hill. As I passed it, I noticed a very visible line in the slush from the right side as the front wheel drive car had lost its traction and was spinning its right front wheel and its differential not giving any power to the left side. The driver was continuing to floor it and spin the wheel rather than stop, pull over to either side, or try to drive on the shoulder. Skinny so-called high gas mileage tires, probably with an inadequate or worn down tread pattern. Yeah, the weather and roads have been clear for too long the last couple of weeks.
By the time I got to 84th Avenue, the winds were beginning to pick up out of the east and the road was mostly one set of tire tracks in the middle of the two lanes, as drifting began to fill things in. Yeah, and I'm not putting out the garbage can at the road tonight either.
It took me 2:15 to get home, too.