Source: Sherman Publications

Snowstorm blankets area, closes schools, causes power outages

by CJ Carnacchio

January 08, 2014

Old Man Winter is on a rampage and he shows no signs of relenting.

He ended 2013 with a destructive ice storm just before Christmas. Now, he’s kicked off 2014 with a brutal blizzard.

The Oxford/Addison area found itself buried in more than a foot of snow following a severe storm that began Saturday evening and continued throughout Sunday.

By Monday evening, the website for National Weather Service (NWS) forecast office in White Lake was reporting 12.9 inches had fallen in neighboring Lake Orion, 15.3 inches in Clarkston and 15.9 inches in Holly.

The excessive snowfall was followed by a frigid blast of Arctic air that settled over southeast Michigan Monday. Its icy grip coupled with windy conditions produced dangerous wind chills of 20 to 40 below zero.

A wind chill of minus 36 degrees was reported in both Pontiac (8:33 p.m. Jan. 6) and Lapeer (12:54 a.m. Jan. 7), according to the NWS.

The snow and freezing temperatures were good news for Oxford students who enjoyed an extended Christmas vacation as the school district was closed Jan. 6-8.

Oxford Township employees also got a day off as their 300 Dunlap Rd. facility was closed Monday due to the weather. The Oxford Village offices remained open.

The snow was bad news for the Oxford fire personnel as they tried to reach a medical call Monday morning at Deerwood Manor, an assisted living facility at 1095 Hummer Lake Rd.

“We had to plow the road ourselves all the way from M-24 (and Metamora Rd.) down Hummer Lake Rd. about a mile-and-a-half just to get to the place,” said Fire Chief Pete Scholz. “Their driveway was probably 600 feet long and we had to plow that, too, to get the ambulance back in there. We got the ambulance stuck and we had to get that pulled out.”

Some people, like Oxford resident Heather Hull, used the snow as an opportunity to perform good deeds. She shoveled eight of her neighbors’ driveways.

“I did not ask anyone for money,” she posted on Facebook. “I just wanted to help. I was GLAD to help.”

As with any snow storm, the Road Commission for Oakland County’s (RCOC) top priority is clearing the main roads due to their heavier traffic volume and higher speeds.

Subdivision roads are the lowest priority because they carry the least amount of traffic and the slowest moving traffic.

However, in an effort to more quickly clear snow-covered subdivision roads, the road commission announced via a Jan. 6 press release that it was taking the “unusual” step of bringing in private contractors to help plow these streets as well as utilizing road commission vehicles and personnel not typically assigned to plowing duties.

Despite this, RCOC Managing Director Dennis Kolar cautioned it would still likely take a few days to clear all of the subdivision roads under the county’s jurisdiction.

“We are using all available resources to clear the roads, but it simply takes some time to clear them all,” he said in the press release.

Oxford Village’s streets and parking lots are all clear thanks to the tireless efforts and long hours of the Department of Public Works, led by Superintendent Don Brantley.

“I think we did a fabulous job,” he said. “We’ve worked hard and we’ve actually had some compliments from residents and a few business owners.”

The DPW’s five-man crew plowed from 3 a.m. until 6 p.m. Sunday. They went back to work at midnight and kept going until 3 p.m. Monday.

“We’re in a lot better shape than some of the other subdivisions and communities. There’s a lot of people stuck,” Brantley said.

Brantley said this storm is definitely one for the books.

“I’d say it’s probably (among) the top five storms that I’ve dealt with in the last 25 years,” he noted. “I think the last big snow we had like this was in 1999 or 2000.”

He’s got a good memory. It was December 11-12, 2000 when the Oxford area was hit hard with about 14 inches of snow.

Although plowing roads and shoveling sidewalks has been a top priority in the storm’s aftermath, Scholz is asking people who have a fire hydrant in front of either their home or business to please keep it clear of snow in case his department needs to access it.

In the midst of the storm, some Oxford residents found themselves without electricity when two transformers sustained damage around 8 a.m. Sunday.

“We believe melting snow caused two pieces of energized metal to arc, damaging the transformers,” explained DTE Spokesperson Erica Donerson.

This impacted two DTE substations in Oxford and one in Addison, she said.

As a result, a total of about 7,500 DTE customers lost power in northern Oakland County and possibly Lapeer County, according to Donerson.

Of that, 2,035 were in Oxford Township and Village. Outages included downtown businesses along M-24.

“The vast majority of customers were restored within a couple of hours,” Donerson said. “But unfortunately, our crews encountered severe weather yesterday (Sunday), which made the repairs to the overhead lines a little challenging.”

Scholz noted that at M-24 and Metamora Rd., just north of Dunlap Rd., three large primary power lines came down Sunday.

On Monday morning, Donerson reported there were still about 50 DTE customers without power, but their service was restored around noon.

The low temperatures caused fire suppression pipes to freeze and burst at Midwest Auction Galleries (925 N. Lapeer Rd.) on Jan. 3 and Independence Village of Waterstone (701 Market St.) Jan. 4 and 5, according to Scholz.

In all three cases, fire personnel were dispatched to shut down the systems.