weather

Metro Detroit sees its first snow of the season

Colten Christensen, right, of Richmond, and Dan O'Brien, center, of Port Huron, roll out another section of snow fence ...more
Colten Christensen, right, of Richmond, and Dan O'Brien, center, of Port Huron, roll out another section of snow fence as Ken Tomchek, left, of Warren, uses a 35-pound fence-post driver to pound posts into the ground on Nov. 8, 2018.
Todd McInturf, The Detroit News
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Michigan is seeing its first winter-like weather Friday and before the snow and sleet started falling road crews were getting prepared for the season ahead.

The first statewide accumulation of snow started Friday around 5 a.m. Snow will continue until 1 p.m., when Metro Detroit will see a transition from snow to rain, said Trent Frey, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in White Lake Township. 

Wayne County is expected to see less than an inch of snow Friday. Meanwhile, the Upper Peninsula will see 9-14 inches of snow, according to the National Weather Service.

"We have had some days with minor snowflakes in higher areas but this will be the first snowfall," Frey said. "It won't be a dusting but more of a slushy mix."

Michigan's first accumulation is arriving nearly a month earlier than last year, when the first snowfall occurred on Dec. 7. 

When it comes to the roads, the county crews are ready to handle whatever Mother Nature throws down.

Macomb County Department of Roads employees began building a snow fence longer than five football fields in a field Wednesday on the west side of North Avenue between Bordman and Pratt Roads in Armada Township. The fence is one of 30 being placed to help reduce snow drifts from west-blowing winds on North Avenue, said Leo Ciavatta, Macomb County's maintenance superintendent.

James Goulais, left, of Algonac, and Ken Tomchek, right, of Warren, use zip ties to attach sections ...more
James Goulais, left, of Algonac, and Ken Tomchek, right, of Warren, use zip ties to attach sections of snow fence to fence posts on Nov. 7, 2018
Todd McInturf, The Detroit News

In addition to installing fences, the commission will fix any structures that have failed and remove steel plates covering roadways ahead of snowfall, Ciavatta said.

"We have to remove the steel plates off the road because if we plow the roads, those plates will come off in the process," he said. "Both are part of our early winter preparation, which we normally begin in early November."

On average, Macomb County uses 50,000 tons of salt per year on its roads; the county pre-ordered it in the spring. Ciavatta said state roads are the first priority for plowing and the county is looking to fill six plowing positions ahead of the winter.

"We have about 110 employees in the maintenance department and we could always use more," said Ciavatta.

Ken Tomchek, of Warren, carries a 35-pound fence-post driver over his head as he walks between ...more
Ken Tomchek, of Warren, carries a 35-pound fence-post driver over his head as he walks between fence posts that he pounds into the ground.
Todd McInturf, The Detroit News

Craig Bryson, a spokesman for the Road Commission of Oakland County, said the roads with the highest speeds and most travelers get priority for plowing. 

"Subdivisions are last and while that may upset people, that's where the least and slowest moving (traffic) is," Bryson said. 

Bryson said the commission begins preparations in the early fall, reviewing safety operations, checking equipment and stocking up on salt.

"We don't put stock in the forecasts because they're usually wrong," Bryson said. "We always prepare for the worst and hope for the best."

While Metro Detroit will be experiencing no more than a couple of inches, parts of Northern Michigan are bracing for the first major snowfall of the season.

The National Weather Service issued a travel warning for parts of the Upper Peninsula, including Keweenaw and Houghton counties, where forecasts call for 9-14 inches of snow starting Thursday night and ending Saturday morning, with winds gusting up to 35 mph.

Snowfall totals of 6-12 inches are possible in other parts of the western Upper Peninsula.

Elsewhere, a blast of wintry weather also is forecast, with 3-5 inches of snow possible, in the western and southwestern Lower Peninsula. Cold temperatures will spread across the state and southeastern Michigan, including Detroit, which could get 1 inch of snow.

Extended forecast for Metro Detroit

Friday: Breezy, possible snowfall with a high of 41 degrees, low of 27. 

Saturday: Breezy and cloudy. High of 38 degrees, low of 23.

Sunday: Cloudy with a high of 38 degrees, low of 30.

Monday: A chance for snow or flurries with a high of 42 degrees, low of 30.

Tuesday: Thick cloud coverage with a high of 35 degrees, low of 25. 

The Associated Press contributed.

srahal@detroitnews.com
Twitter:@SarahRahal_

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