Western Michigan is known for its lake effect snow. But even veteran winter drivers had a tough time making it home safely last Tuesday when icy roads and blowing snow shut down stretches of I-196. When winter kicks into full swing, have a plan to stay safe.
The weather has to be pretty bad to close down roads in Western Michigan. Last Tuesday’s winter storm met that challenge. Icy roads and blowing snow caused multiple accidents, including a fatal crash on M-104, and closed I-196 in both directions.
Ottawa County emergency responders had their hands full when a severe snow storm swept through on January 12, 2016. On M-104 near 140th Ave., a 67 year old man lost control on an icy road in Spring Lake. He hit a second car head on, and then was struck by a third vehicle. The driver did not survive the crash.
Eastbound I-196 was also closed from Adams Street to Byron Road, leaving motorists stranded for hours. Commuter Veronica Pettigrew told Fox 17 News:
“I just thank God I wasn’t in a ditch and I was moving….it was so icy.”
A multi-vehicle crash on westbound I-196 closed that side of the highway between Adams Street and M-40 as well. The resulting delays left Pettigrew 12 miles from home after an hour of inching along the freeway.
Ice and snow are inevitable in Michigan. But there are some things you can do to prepare for the worst.
Leave Early and Be Patient
Even without any accidents, winter travel is slow. Leave yourself plenty of time to get where you are going. If you are rushing you are more likely to drive too fast for conditions and lose control. Speed puts you at risk of ending up in a ditch or worse, in a serious auto accident.
Know Alternate Routes
Michigan motorists rely heavily on its expressways. But there’s a risk to only knowing one way home. Pettigrew told Fox 17:
“My biggest concern was when they had me get off the exit, how am I going to get home.”
Don’t get stranded by a weather-related detour. Make sure you know alternate routes to your destination, or use a GPS device with a connection to current traffic conditions. That way, a roadblock won’t leave you stranded, and you will still be able to get to safety.
Be Ready to Wait It Out
Sometimes, white-out conditions leave roads entirely impassable. Don’t risk driving blind. Be prepared to wait out the worst of the storm. Carry blankets, water, and non-perishable food in your trunk. It is better to be delayed than dead. A little preparation can make you comfortable while you wait.
Icy roads and blowing snow can cause delays, detours, and deadly accidents. No one controls the weather. But you can be prepared so the weather doesn’t get the best of you.