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Michigan temps plunge after big wallop of snow

 

Associated Press

A shopper braves blowing snow while heading into Kroger in Green Acres Plaza on State Street in Saginaw Township, Monday. Heavy snow overnight caused the closing of government offices, cancellation of local schools and other services. Bitter cold air and blowing snow moved into the area Monday.

DEARBORN (AP) - Michigan residents on Monday watched - and felt - the thermometer spiral downward to dangerously cold levels as they dug out following a multiday storm that shuttered schools, closed government offices across the state and contributed to at least five deaths.

Hundreds of vehicles also strained to start in the plunging temperatures or spun out from slick roadways into snowy side ditches.

According to the National Weather Service, 17.1 inches of snow fell in Flint, 18.7 inches fell northwest in Owosso, 15.5 inches fell north of Jackson, 15.9 inches fell at Howell and 15 inches were reported north of Battle Creek. In the Detroit suburb of Romulus, 10.6 inches of snow were reported at Detroit Metropolitan Airport.

The snow wrapped up after starting Saturday or Sunday, depending on the area. Roads were slippery as crews worked to clear the snow. Weather was a factor in at least two roadway deaths.

A 16-year-old driver hit 50-year-old pedestrian Timothy Nixon, of Hastings, on Saturday in Barry County's Baltimore Township, according to state police.

Branden Hewitt, 27, of Owendale, died Saturday in a two-vehicle crash in Huron County's Brookfield Township.

Three people also collapsed and died while shoveling snow.

A 36-year-old Detroit man died at an Oakland County hospital after collapsing Sunday, Oakland County medical examiner's office administrator Robert Gerds told the Detroit Free Press.

A 57-year-old Milford man died Saturday after collapsing while shoveling snow, as did a 67-year-old Pontiac woman, Gerds added.

Janice Gilbert was using a snow blower Monday morning to clear the sidewalks and driveways of Sacred Heart church and school on Michigan Avenue, a main thoroughfare in the Detroit suburb of Dearborn, even though the school was closed.

County road crews "pushed snow right back on the sidewalk, so it's double the work," said Gilbert, a maintenance assistant for the parish's building and grounds. "But what are you going to do? They got to clear it too."

Clarence Baker trudged north on Woodward Avenue in the small Detroit enclave of Highland Park to get to a public bus shelter. He was headed about four miles south to the Detroit Public Library, despite the deep chill and blowing, biting snow.

"We've had it easy," he said. "It can get worse. Just like Mother Nature dumped this on us, that don't mean that you're supposed to stop."

The heavy snow and frigid temperature spoiled Monday's grand opening of Firehouse Subs, a sandwich shop about a block from the Capitol in downtown Lansing. The usually bustling district was mostly dead during the Monday lunch hour.

Franchisee Sam Shango, 40, of nearby DeWitt, said the shop should have been a "madhouse" on opening day. But instead there was a trickle of customers. He still opened, he said, because food had been prepped and employee schedules written.

"Weather vs. Firehouse; weather won," Shango said. "This is not what it was supposed to do."

In the southern Lower Peninsula, temperatures were expected to drop as low as minus 15 late Monday or early Tuesday. Temperatures Monday afternoon had fallen to right around zero in Detroit. A reading of 22 degrees below zero was reported in the Upper Peninsula community of Ironwood.

"We do have wind chill warnings in effect through Wednesday," Matt Mosteiko, a meteorologist with the weather service's White Lake Township office outside Detroit, said of the ongoing freeze.

Gov. Rick Snyder on Monday visited an operations center in Detroit run by the Michigan Department of Transportation. He urged residents to drive slowly and stay safe and warm.

"Get into the office, get to work and don't dwell outside," he said. "This isn't the day to have the kids go outside and build a snowman, or an igloo."

Many state offices were closed Monday, including those in Lansing. Two Four Winds casinos in the southwestern Michigan communities of Dowagiac and Hartford announced the facilities would be closed until Tuesday morning.

AAA Michigan spokeswoman Nancy Cain said the auto club assisted at least 2,200 motorists slammed by snow and low temperatures.

The problems included dead batteries, cars slipping off roads, no gas and people locked out of their vehicles while warming them up.

The storm also shuttered many courts, including bankruptcy court in Detroit. That delayed closing arguments in a hearing on an agreement by Detroit to pay off banks and settle millions of dollars in debt tied to an interest rate swaps deal.

In the Detroit suburb of Lake Orion, police say heavy snow is believed to have caused the roof to collapse at a two-story building that once housed a bar, and MLive.com reported that authorities in Saginaw Township are investigating a partial roof collapse at a Kmart store. No injuries were reported in either collapse.

Many city, county and state offices were closed. There were some exceptions Monday, with Detroit reporting its offices will be open.

Hundreds of schools across the state canceled classes Monday, including Detroit Public Schools, and many were already calling off classes for Tuesday. The University of Michigan in Ann Arbor bucked the trend and posted on its website that it was staying open Monday. The school's Flint and Dearborn campuses were closed.