Category Archives: Weather

Fifth-grader enrollment for emergency preparedness program grows

schoolsMore schools in Michigan are enrolling their fifth graders in a state program that aims to prepare them for emergencies.

It’s called Student Tools for Emergency Planning, or STEP. It’s a curriculum that helps teachers prepare students for emergencies like tornadoes, flooding and storms. Continue reading

Experts urge safe driving with extreme cold temperatures

Snow street scenes
It isn’t only snow and ice that can pose risks to Michigan drivers during the winter, but also brutally cold temperatures. When temperatures dip below zero as they have in recent days, Nick Jarmusz, director of public affairs with AAA, said drivers should never hit the road with a tank that’s close to empty.

“Keep at least a half-tank of gas in your car at all times during cold weather to avoid engine freeze-up,” Jarmusz said. “That way, if you do get stranded, you have enough gas to periodically run the engine to keep the car warmed up.”

In addition, Jarmusz said it’s best to check your vehicle’s battery before a cold spell. Faulty batteries cause more car-starting problems than any other factor. He said, at zero degrees, even a good battery has about 35 percent less starting power.

If a car is to break down, state courtesy vans and police are often on the lookout for stranded drivers. If your car freezes up or breaks down, or if you get in a wreck, Jarmusz strongly recommends staying with your vehicle.

“If you start venturing away from your car, the elements are going to be a bigger danger to you than if you were to stay and wait,” he said. “If you’re on a road you can either flag down help or wait for an emergency vehicle. If you have your cell phone, you can call for help.”

Perhaps most importantly, Jarmusz said, is to take precautions before even beginning a drive. When roads are slippery, he said, front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive can help a great deal to get a vehicle going – but once it’s at cruising speed, they do nothing to help you slow down or stop. Also, he said “no” to cruise control on snowy or slippery roads.

“It maintains a specific speed, and if you begin to slide, the vehicle is going to want to keep the wheels spinning at the same rate, in order to maintain the same speed,” says Jarmusz. “What it’s going to do is contribute to loss of control, and if you run into a less-traction situation, the wheels are going to keep spinning.”

If your vehicle has anti-lock brakes, he said applying constant, firm pressure is best to bring the vehicle to a controlled stop under slippery conditions.

November snowfall record broken in the Sault

After being bombarded by lake effect snow for nearly two weeks non-stop, meteorologists say Sault Ste Marie has broken its November snowfall record.

The record was originally set in 1989 at nearly 47 inches.

Dave Lawrence is a meteorologist from the Gaylord National Weather Service. He says this amount of snowfall is unprecedented for the Sault in this short amount of time.

“Ya know I think the only interesting thing is that they’ve seen 56.8 inches for the month and their entire season average snowfall is just over 120 inches. So that really puts it into perspective, ya know in an average season we’d see 50 inches spread out over three months instead of two weeks.”

The new record has bested the previous one by a solid 10 inches.

Michigan energy appraisal estimates lower bills

The state says its bi-annual energy appraisal shows that residents will have a bit more money in their pockets this Winter.

Judy Palnau is a media specialist with the Michigan Public Service Commission. She says although unit price has risen for natural gas users, overall they should be paying less.

“Bills will be going down despite the fact that natural gas prices per unit are expected to be up. Last year was actually the reverse. We were paying an 11-year low per unit of natural gas, but because we were using so much more of it to keep warm, many people saw their bills actually go up, despite the lower price.”

Palnau says the estimate is based on the assumption that Michigan will have a return to normal winter weather this year.

We spoke to the National Weather Service office in Gaylord. Their meteorologists say Michigan will likely see a slightly colder than normal winter, however it will be nowhere near as cold as last year’s Polar Vortex.

The MPSC says even if Michigan has another remarkably cold Winter, there is enough energy stored to avoid a crisis.

Rising cost of salt could bust road budgets this winter

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The rising cost of salt could be a budget-buster for road agencies this coming winter.

“It’s a simple supply-and-demand situation, obviously, and we went through a ton of salt, all agencies across the state and the upper Midwest because of last year’s winter,” says Jeff Cranson of the Michigan Department of Transportation. “And we anticipate this year, we’re going to have another pretty rough winter and, now, we know going into it that salt prices are going to be up.”

Cranson says the cost of salt is about 50 percent more than last year. Cranson says the state and local road agencies used 656 thousand tons of salt last winter. The same amount would cost about $40 million today.

He says history suggests it could be years before the cost of road salt goes down. He says it’s one more reason the state needs to come up with more road revenue.

Governor Rick Snyder is pressing the Legislature to approve a package to raise more than a billion dollars for roads.

MDOT is looking to make roads safer with “Road Watchers”

Winter can be rough on northern Michigan roads, and a new program aims to keep drivers safe this winter.

The Michigan Department of Transportation Is looking for what they call “Road Watchers” who would rate driving conditions in the Upper Peninsula. Continue reading