Be Safe during Lower Peninsula Winter Storm

Contact: Ron Leix, MSP/EMHSD Public Information Officer, 517-242-5631
Agency: State Police

February 1, 2015

LANSING. With a severe winter storm expected to blanket nearly a foot of snow on the southern half of the Lower Peninsula until Monday morning, the Michigan State Police, Emergency Management and Homeland Security Division (MSP/EMHSD) is encouraging Michiganders to minimize travel and exercise caution when going outside.

The National Weather Service is forecasting 10 to 16 inches of snow and nighttime wind chills below zero until 7 a.m. Monday for counties along the Interstate 94 corridor. This winter storm is expected to produce an inch per hour snowfall rate, high winds and blowing snow, making outdoor activity and traveling dangerous. 

"We strongly encourage avoiding unnecessary travel during this snowstorm," said Capt. Chris A. Kelenske, Deputy State Director of Emergency Management and Homeland Security and commander of the MSP/EMHSD. "Minimizing the number of vehicles on the roads will also help snowplows clear roads quicker and safer."

The public is encouraged to monitor local news media for up-to-date weather reports and local emergency information.

To stay safe during a winter storm:

  • 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.
  • Avoid overexertion when shoveling heavy snow, pushing a car, or walking in deep snow. Take breaks frequently.
  • 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.
  • 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.

In addition to being prepared for the winter storm, the MSP/EMHSD reminds motorists to take extra precautions when stopping and driving in winter weather if travel is absolutely necessary. 

Remember to do all of your braking before the turn is made and take the proper line of travel through the turn to reduce the potential for a skid to occur.  If your vehicle begins to skid, let off the throttle and brakes and use a quick hand-over-hand steering technique to turn the front tires in the direction you want to go.

"A vehicle's handling capability is drastically reduced in winter weather, so take it slow on ice and snow," Kelenske said. "Be sure to leave enough distance between you and the vehicle in front of you. Always keep your focus on the road and avoid cell phone use while driving."

Safe winter driving tips:

  • Check the weather before leaving for a destination. If the weather forecast looks dangerous, reschedule or postpone the driving trip.
  • DO NOT crowd snowplows. Give snowplow drivers plenty of room to clear snow from the roads.
  • Keep tires at the vehicle manufacturer's recommended pressure and routinely check tire pressure during cold weather.
  • Keep windshield solvent at full strength and make sure the reservoir is full, and keep new wiper blades on front and rear wipers, if so equipped.
  • Wash your vehicle for better visibility to other drivers, and remove ice and snow from all lights, windows and the license plate before driving.
  • Periodically check all lights and replace when necessary.
  • Keep an emergency preparedness kit in your vehicle stocked with: batteries, battery powered or hand-crank radio, flashlight, windshield scraper, jumper cables, shovel, blankets, first aid kit, non-perishable food and bottled water in the event you get stranded or stuck.

Michigan weather is unpredictable any time of year, but especially during the winter months. If you are stranded in a winter storm, do not leave your vehicle. Stay with the vehicle and wait for help.

Travelers are encouraged to go to www.michigan.gov/roadconditions and www.michigan.gov/drive to check road conditions before traveling. Road conditions are also available by calling the MSP Travel Hotline at 1-800-381-8477.  The MSP/EMHSD asks that you view these websites or call the Travel Hotline rather than calling your local MSP post or 911.

Citizens who need assistance or guidance during the winter storm 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 www.michigan.gov/beprepared or Twitter page at www.twitter.com/MichEMHS.