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Michigan deep freeze keeps people inside for second day

 

Associated Press

Garret Kelenske, 49, works to remove snow on the sidewalk along Hoyt Street near Sacred Heart Church in Muskegon Heights, Tuesday.

DETROIT (AP) - Faced with another day of bitter-cold temperatures that kept many Michigan schools, businesses and government offices shuttered Tuesday for a second straight day, some residents donned layer upon layer to brave the elements out of necessity or simple curiosity.

With record-low temperatures recorded in some parts of the state and wind chills that made it feel as though it were 30 to 40 degrees below zero in places, emergency officials warned people to stay indoors if at all possible. Michigan authorities were blaming seven deaths on last weekend's snowstorm and the deep freeze that followed.

Many people appeared to have heeded the warnings, as snowy sidewalks in many cities remained largely deserted. Parts of Detroit were an industrial-Arctic landscape early Tuesday, with wind-pushed discharge from a smokestack floating parallel to steam from the Detroit River, which separates the city from Windsor, Ontario.

The Detroit People Mover shut down due to extreme cold and low wind chill temperatures. Transportation officials said Tuesday morning that operations of the 13-stop, 2.9-mile downtown elevated train loop were suspended until further notice.

Not everyone remained frozen-in, however.

Gregory Davis came to a Chevrolet dealership in Detroit to pick up a sport-utility vehicle that had been in the shop for a couple weeks. It hadn't been a high priority until Tuesday morning, when he was confronted with a dead battery in another family car.

"I got up this morning and my wife's truck wouldn't start," said Davis, 51, a third-generation preacher and television host in Detroit.

Davis said he's also trying to arrange his daughter's safe return to Michigan State University, which announced it would resume normal operations late Tuesday afternoon, and get his pregnant wife to the hospital for tests.

"You just keep going - that's the motto of my life," said Davis, donning a bright red hat with ear flaps he said he bought for fashion but now wears for function. "If you stop doing, you know, you get frozen."

With classes canceled, 23-year-old Chris Rourke left his car at home and used cross country skis to get to work at a ski shop in suburban Detroit. He was sweating and breathing heavily as he moved quickly on a sidewalk next to West Maple Road, a busy road in Bloomfield Township.

"In these kinds of conditions, I have the time so I decided to ski instead," he said.

The severe cold, icy roads and blowing snow kept driving hazardous, and the State Emergency Operations Center remained partially activated to monitor conditions.

AAA Michigan said it helped at least 2,200 motorists affected by the snow and in the first half of Tuesday. The Dearborn-based auto club handled 5,800 calls during a 24-hour period Monday.

Lows of 14 degrees below zero were reported Monday and early Tuesday at Detroit Metropolitan Airport in Romulus as well as in Flint, according to the National Weather Service. The previous record low for Jan. 7 was minus-5 at the airport in 1942 and minus-10 at Flint in 1986.

For Jan. 6, the previous record low for Detroit was minus 7 in 1924 and for Flint was minus 5 in 1945.

Tuesday temperatures hovered around zero degrees in Grand Rapids and reportedly sunk to 11 below zero in Lansing.

Freezing temperatures and heavy snowfall are common in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, but meteorologist Kevin Crupi with the weather service's Marquette-area office said Monday's low of 17 below zero tied the previous record low for Jan. 6 set in 1968.

The lowest reported temperature in Michigan Tuesday morning was 20 degrees below zero in Ironwood, where Crupi said wind chill temperatures Monday sunk as low as 55 degrees below zero.

"It's fairly unusual that we get wind chills that low, even up here," Crupi said.

While many schools remained closed for a second day Tuesday, some planned to reopen.

The weather forced the postponement of numerous sporting events. Marquette Senior High School also plans to reschedule its Marquette Invitational alpine ski races, The Mining Journal reported.

Extra precautions were being taken at other events, including Tuesday night's men's basketball game between No. 5 Michigan State and No. 3 Ohio State in East Lansing. Students will be allowed inside the Breslin Center an hour earlier than usual, but they won't be allowed to camp out for doors to the arena to open.

The extreme cold followed a weekend storm that dumped more than a foot of snow in some areas. Owosso got 18.7 inches of snow and Detroit's airport got and 10.6 inches, the weather service said. Flint City Hall was closed for a second day Tuesday after the city got its third-heaviest snowfall on record - 17.1 inches.

Another 1 to 3 inches of snow was possible in the southwestern portion of the state on Tuesday.

Don Martin, a plumber in South Haven, said he's using a torch to thaw frozen, unprotected pipes at mobile homes and homes that rely on wells for water. By early Tuesday afternoon, he still had six more stops to make. A service call costs $125.

"People are grateful, but people are short on cash this time of year," Martin said. "We do a lot of jobs on credit, on faith. We get burned about 25 percent of the time but what are you going to do?"

On Monday, a car lost control and slid in front of an oncoming propane tanker in Otsego County's Chester Township in the northern Lower Peninsula, state police said. The car's driver was critically injured and its passenger was killed.

Weather was a factor in at least two roadway deaths over the weekend, including a driver in Huron County and a pedestrian in Barry County. Three people also collapsed and died while shoveling snow, officials said.