A little more than 24 hours after the freezing rain began falling, some stretches of road in Washtenaw County appear more suitable for the luge than driving.
While conditions in the City of Saline, local freeways and other major county roads are much improved, there are still dangerously icy spots within the county’s 800 miles of unpaved and local roads.
“Please stay home or take another route if possible. If you aren't sure of conditions, don't go that way,” a post on the county’s Facebook page beckoned.
Some of the rural roads in York, Lodi and Saline Townships are among the toughest to navigate. Still, as of late Wednesday afternoon, Saline-area residents managed to avoid any serious incidents on the road.
“We haven’t been really busy. We had a little bit of activity last night, before everyone figured out they shouldn’t be on the road. The backroads are bad, but people seem to know that,” said Craig Hoeft, Chief of the Saline Area Fire Department.
Hoeft said a few cars have slid off the road, but there haven’t been any serious injuries. Several drivers also ran into difficulty because they couldn’t make it up an icy slope on Waters Road, Hoeft said.
“But we’ve been very fortunate so far. The main roads are good,” Hoeft said.
He said he hoped the county could treat the backroads before the fire department is called out there for an incident.
Saline Police Chief Jerrod Hart said he was impressed with the conditions of the roads in the city.
“Roads were icy on the way in from York Township this morning. But in the city, where we have only 40 miles of roads, the crews have done a great job. They’ve been out all day working,” Hart said.
As temperatures fall below freezing tonight, black ice could form and road conditions may worsen.
Another inch of snow could fall Thursday afternoon and evening. A bitter cold is expected to move in and continue into early next week, with potentially dangerous wind chills Friday night and Saturday morning.
Here are safety tips for winter driving.
- Drive slowly. Slow down on winter roads. Allow a greater distance for stopping than for dry conditions. Slippery conditions can make it more challenging to stop, and excessive speeds can make the situation worse.
- Shift into low gear. On hills, rely on low gears to maximize traction to travel up and down hills. This can minimize skids or sliding.
- Get the vehicle a tuneup. In addition to tires, be sure the braking system, battery and other major components of the vehicle are in good working order.
- Replace windshield wipers. Reduced visibility can compromise the safety of drivers and their passengers. Replace windshield wiper blades before winter arrives. Consider purchasing winter-rated windshield blades.
- Know how to recover from a skid. When skids occur on black ice or slush, drivers should take their feet off of the pedals and steer gently in the direction they want to go. As the vehicle regains traction, only then should the brakes or accelerator be applied.
- Winter weather requires making some vehicle modifications, and drivers may want to alter the way they drive to be more safe on the road.
There were a stranded drivers today who could have used safety kits. Here’s what every winter driver should have in their vehicle, according to The Department of Motor Vehicles and the Department of Homeland Security:
- durable bags or crates to store supplies
- complete first aid kit
- small fire extinguisher
- jumper cables
- rain ponchos
- plastic tarp
- flashlights and extra batteries
- bottled water
- small cache of nonperishable foods
- wrench and pliers
- local maps
- duct tape
- multipurpose tool
- ice scraper
- automotive fluids
- blankets/warm clothing
- cat litter for slick roads
- tire-changing equipment
- spare tire
- road flares or caution reflectors
- empty, refillable gas canister
- cash for gas
- phone charger cable
Saline Area Schools administration must decide whether class resumes Thursday when so many backroads are covered in ice.