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Tag Archive | "winter hazards"

MDOT warns motorists, private plows of winter hazards

CAR-Fast-FactsA private snowplow pushes snow into a state highway, causing a public plow to crash and roll over, injuring the driver. Meanwhile, in another area a motorist disregards winter conditions, traveling too fast and crashes into the rear of a Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) plow, disabling it.

Those are just two cases of hazardous actions in winter resulting in crashes earlier this month in Michigan, and in both cases taking two winter maintenance vehicles out of commission.

“Slippery roads, reduced visibility, and excessive speeds greatly reduce the margin of error in winter driving,” said State Transportation Director Kirk T. Steudle. “We implore private plow operators and motorists to be extra cautious, and avoid doing anything that adds to the hazards of winter driving or roadway maintenance.”

Two main concerns are when residents and businesses pile snow at the ends of driveways along the highway shoulder, and when snow is pushed across the road, leaving snow or slush on the road surface.

The Michigan Vehicle Code prohibits depositing “snow, ice, or slush on any roadway or highway,” and “the obstruction of safety vision by removal or deposit of snow, ice, or slush.” This includes the end of driveways, where banked snow can reduce visibility for vehicles trying to enter the roadway. Leaving a trail of snow on the pavement while plowing across the road also can create an added hazard to unsuspecting motorists and to road maintenance personnel.

Motorists also should be particularly careful around winter maintenance snowplows and salt trucks. These large, powerful vehicles may be traveling at slower speeds than vehicles around them, and may be obscured by blowing snow.

“For your safety and the safety of our operators, it’s important to give snowplows a buffer to do their work,” Steudle said.

Some tips for motorists encountering snowplows:

• Snowplows have limited visibility and drivers cannot see directly behind their trucks;

• Snowplows often throw up clouds of snow behind them, reducing visibility for drivers following behind them;

• Motorists should never attempt to pass a moving snowplow on the right. With new wing plows and tow plows, the blade can clear the shoulder and the lane of travel simultaneously. Motorists attempting an illegal pass through a snow cloud on the right and/or shoulder of the road most likely won’t see the plow blade and run the risk of a serious crash; and

• MDOT snowplows throughout Michigan will be driving at 25 mph when applying salt, which helps keep more salt on the roadway driving lanes where it is most effective. Snowplows may travel at up to 45 mph when plowing only.

MDOT says: Drive like you want to make it home tonight.


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Preparing for Michigan winter hazards

The scene on US131 at the Jefferson/Morley exit Sunday, February 20, 2011 during the snowstorm.

We’ve already had our first snowfall, and there’s sure to be plenty more.
According to WOOD-TV8 meteorologist Bill Steffen, he’s forecasting 89 inches of snow for Grand Rapids, 76 inches for Kalamazoo, 98 inches for Holland and 100  inches for Muskegon. “Above normal snowfall is likely over most all of southern Great Lakes,” he wrote in his Winter Forecast.
Steffen said last winter (Dec.-Feb.) turned out to be slightly cooler than average and we got the most snow in February, as we’ve done the last three years.
According to the National Weather Service, The “Groundhog Day” blizzard was the headline event of the winter, not only in Michigan but across the county. This blizzard stretched from Oklahoma through Chicago and Michigan and into the New England states. The storm produced widespread blizzard conditions from the Holland/Grand Rapids area northeast through the Saginaw Bay region.  Snowfall in this band across Central Lower Michigan ranged from 10 to 15 inches.  The winds gusted in excess of 40 mph for hours, which created whiteout conditions, snow drifts of 3 to 5 feet and made travel nearly impossible.
Steffen noted there is also a decent chance of an ice storm again this year like the one we had on February 20 (see photo.) The ice accumulated up to a half inch with some isolated locations with an inch of ice.  This downed thousands of trees and power lines throughout that region. Many people were without power for 4 to 5 days.  The National Weather Service said up to 10 million dollars in damages were caused by the ice storm.
Are you prepared for this winter? Check out the articles in this section to see what you should do before and during a winter storm.

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