Cold loosening grip on Michigan; travel difficult

DETROIT — An arctic blast loosened its grip on Michigan on Wednesday as hundreds of schools stayed closed for a third consecutive day due to the cold and travel was hazardous on icy roads around the state.

Temperatures in Detroit were around zero degrees Wednesday morning and were expected to rise into the teens during the day. It was 15 below zero in Three Rivers, 13 below in Coldwater, 12 below in Ann Arbor and 10 below in Adrian.

A semi crash north of Monroe shut down part of Interstate 75 for several hours Wednesday morning. No injuries were reported. Authorities in Monroe County had been warning people to stay off the roads.

“Citizens are asked not to travel on roads except for essential travel to and from work or emergencies,” officials said in an advisory.

Wind chill warnings were in effect across much of the southern Lower Peninsula. Some more snow was possible in places. Michigan authorities have blamed seven deaths on last weekend’s snowstorm and the deep freeze.

On Tuesday, with record-low temperatures recorded in some parts of the state, wind chills made it feel as though it were 30 to 40 degrees below. The cold weather froze pipes at some homes, businesses and government offices, and some burst.

A broken pipe at the Community Foundation of St. Clair County caused significant damage to its offices in Port Huron, the Times Herald reported. And a water pipe burst at a Traverse City courthouse, flooding a judge’s chambers and courtroom. It also saturated stacks of old case files in basement storage.

“All the sudden the water starts coming through the ceiling,” maintenance worker Greg Lawbach told the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

The Detroit People Mover, which shut down due to extreme cold and low wind chill temperatures, reopened Wednesday morning. Transportation officials had closed the 13-stop, 2.9-mile downtown elevated train loop a day earlier.

Hundreds of elementary, middle and high schools were closed Wednesday in Wayne, Oakland, Macomb and St. Clair counties in southeastern Michigan. In western Michigan, some districts closed for the day while others planned to hold classes.

Classes at many schools had been scheduled to resume Monday, but heavy snow and cold temperatures extended the holiday break. Several universities around the state also had been closed earlier in the week due to the snow and extreme cold.

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, Flint got 17.1 inches and Detroit’s airport got and 10.6 inches, the weather service said.

In Flint, a man told police he was shot while shoveling snow on Sunday. He was in good condition at a hospital.

Crews continued work to clear roads on Wednesday. Streets were covered with packed snow and ice in many places, and freeways were icy at times. In Macomb County outside Detroit, officials said they hoped to clear roads by Friday afternoon.

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

Ice and snow caused difficulties, and that wasn’t limited to those on land. Coast Guard crews from the U.S. and Canada worked to provide Great Lakes freighters with a safe escort through ice on the St. Clair River.

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