Winter’s Wrath: Snow, wind, extreme cold bear down on area


By Daily News • Last Updated 10:08 am on Monday, January 06, 2014

A Belding resident walks into downtown Belding Monday morning along a frozen and snow-covered  Bridge Street bridge. Wind chills were well below zero during the morning commute. — Daily News/Cory Smith

By Elisabeth Waldon and Curtis Wildfong

The first big winter storm of 2014 has completely shut down several municipalities.

Belding city offices are all closed today due to the weather, as are all Ionia County government buildings, including the courthouses.

Plows, salt trucks and snowblowers were busy through Clay Street and other streets in Greenville Sunday night and this morning as between four to eight inches of snow fell during that time. Greenville is expected to see more snow showers today and tonight and lake-effect snow squalls tomorrow. — Daily News/Ryan Schlehuber

The Ionia County Intermediate School District and Montcalm Area Intermediate School district are also closed, as are most local schools, with the exception of Montcalm Community College, which remains open. Most spring semester classes don’t start at MCC until Jan. 13.

The National Weather Service (NWS) reported this morning Grand Rapids and the surrounding area received as much as 8.5 inches of snowfall overnight, leaving anywhere from 12 to 15 inches of snow accumulation. In Greenville, more than 6 inches had fallen as of 7:15 p.m. Sunday, which is the most recent report.

Evan Webb, a meteorologist with NWS said there were wind gusts near Ionia and Montcalm up to 30 to 35 miles per hour earlier this morning. As of 8:30 a.m. today, there was a sustained wind at about 24 miles per hour.

Despite the conditions, local law enforcement officials said there have been very few, if any, trouble with roads this morning. That, officials said, is likely attributed to the number of cancellations, both schools and city municipalities.

Two Belding residents walk along the Bridge Street bridge Monday morning as snow blows across the bridge. — Daily News/Cory Smith

“As far as the roadways, we’re not having trouble so far,” said Lt. Brian Waber with the Montcalm County Sheriff’s Office. “With everything being canceled, traffic is down.

“We haven’t had an accident yet, knock on wood.”

Michigan State Police Lakeview Post Sgt. Ed Hancock said those who have braved the conditions have done so cautiously.

“It seems like with the cancellations, that has helped. And people are aware of what the weather is like and are slowing down,” he said.

There are some drivers who can’t avoid getting on the road today — the drivers of the Road Commission for Montcalm County.

According to Managing Director Mark Christensen, the road commission is operating every piece of equipment today, including 25 trucks and three pick-up trucks with plows, plus motor graders and tractors.

An employee with the city of Belding uses a snowblower vehicle to clear the sidewalks around Belding City Hall Monday morning. — Daily News/Cory Smith

“Everybody in the organization will be driving today,” Christensen said. “We’re working hard. I’m not sure we’re getting a long ways with the way the wind is blowing. We’re going to work all day today. We won’t get everything plowed today, I’ll tell you that. By tomorrow everybody should be serviced.”

Christensen encouraged motorists to be patient and drive appropriate, especially around road commission trucks. He said Montcalm County was pretty much hit with an equal amount of snow all over, with about two inches more in the northern portion of the county.

“People need to use caution, that’s for sure, because it’s not going to get better for a couple days,” he said. “It’s too cold for salt, so all we can do is plow.”

Cold weather tips

As statewide temperatures are forecasted to hover around zero degrees with wind chills at 25 below or colder, the Michigan State Police, Emergency Management and Homeland Security Division is reminding Michigan citizens about how to prepare for the extreme cold.

Here are some safety tips:

• Stay indoors if possible. If you must go outside, wear protective gear, such as hats, mittens and gloves, in addition to a warm coat. Always protect your lungs with a scarf.

• Watch for signs of frostbite, which include loss of feeling or pale appearance of fingers, toes or face.

• Watch for signs of hypothermia, which include uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, drowsiness and exhaustion.

•  Understand the hazards of wind chill. As wind speed increases, heat is carried away from a person’s body more rapidly and could lead to severe hypothermia.

• Remove clothing if it gets damp or wet. Wet clothing can make you more prone to hypothermia.

• Weather-proof doors and windows to trap heat inside your home.

• Check heating units. Poorly operating or damaged heating units can release carbon monoxide gas. Test carbon monoxide detectors for proper operation and battery life.

• Check on family, friends and neighbors who are at risk and may need additional assistance.

• Watch pets closely and keep them indoors when possible. Animals can suffer from hypothermia, frostbite and other cold weather injuries.

• Check and restock your emergency preparedness kit. If you don’t have a kit, make one.

• Minimize travel. If travel is necessary, keep a full tank of gas and an emergency preparedness kit in your vehicle. Put warm clothing, such as gloves, blankets and hats, in your kit in case you become stranded.

Citizens who need assistance or guidance are encouraged to call 211. For more information about being prepared before, during and after an emergency or disaster, go to the MSP/EMHSD’s emergency preparedness website at michigan.gov/beprepared or Twitter at twitter.com/MichEMHS

A commuter enters a barely visible downtown Belding blanketed by snow Monday morning. — Daily News/Cory Smith

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