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Kalamazoo County road crews prepare for snow, strong winds

Posted at 9:12 AM, Jan 05, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-10 08:30:47-05

KALAMAZOO COUNTY, Mich. — As winter weather systems are headed to West Michigan, road crews all over are preparing for strong winds, snow and potential ice.

In Kalamazoo County, both the road commission and Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) have an all-hands-on-deck approach ready to deploy if and when necessary.

The area saw cold temperatures and strong winds that picked up throughout early Wednesday morning. Snow flurries started around 8 a.m.

The Road Commission of Kalamazoo County told Fox 17 that crews have been preparing for this winter weather and have pre-treated roads where possible ahead of the storms.

With around 1,270 miles of roads to cover, crews started leaving the road commission's garages just before 8 a.m. and will stay out as long as needed to make sure roads are clear for drivers.

"Our team is out there. We really try to get out before our early morning commute in the morning especially our high volume traffic roadways. We have a team around the clock monitor conditions, and we are out there trying to make the early commute as safe as possible," said Road Commission of Kalamazoo County's Managing Director Joanna Johnson.

Johnson added in Kalamazoo County, road crews use a sand and salt mixture which is better for the roads and helps when temperature's are below freezing.

"Under a certain temperature, salt doesn't start to melt the ice, and if it does melt the ice then it immediately refreezes once it gets cold again, which actually becomes more dangerous. We really just want to keep that snow, if it is going to dip below a certain temperature. We use other things such as de-icers and sand when we have to and just keep an eye on that temperature," said the Road Commission of Kalamazoo County's Communication Administrator Sarah Phillips.

"As soon as that salt hits the road, whenever it starts to melt, it is going to freeze immediately. We would be creating more ice than we would be moving. There won’t be a lot of salt used. We might have to use in spots and use it very briefly. Generally speaking, it is going to be too cold. Salt is going to cause more problems than it is going to fix," said MDOT Spokesman Nick Schirripa.

Like the Road Commission of Kalamazoo County, MDOT also uses a mixture of sand and salt. A spokesman said road crews have been prepared for any winter weather headed their way since October.

Their plan to keep roads in their seven counties safe is to deploy as many trucks as they can in areas hit the hardest. MDOT said generally the winter weather moves from west to east, so that is how they move as well.

"Our garages along the lakeshore in South Haven, and Sawyer, Niles, Coloma, those are kind of be the first branches that will see the weather start to come through. They’ll be the first ones activated, they'll be the first ones mobilized, those plows will be the first ones to hit the road, and kind of let the rest of the crews move to the east when they start seeing snow and how fast it's moving," said Schirripa.

If you need to head out onto the roads on Wednesday or Thursday, make sure to check MDOT's interactive MiDrive map to see road conditions, where plows are located and traffic flow.