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Blizzard shuts down roads and highways as snow flies and temperatures drop in Michigan

 Michigan State Police said nine semi tractor-trailers had crashed Friday on I-94 in Berrien County.
Michigan State Police Fifth District
Michigan State Police said nine semi tractor-trailers had crashed Friday on I-94 in Berrien County.

Several stretches of state and interstate highways were closed Friday afternoon and evening in Michigan as vehicles slid off roadways and authorities warned of worsening weather conditions.

Michigan State Police shut down a section of I-94 in Berrien County and US-131 in Allegan County Friday afternoon because of crashes, including nine tractor-trailers that police said had crashed near Watervliet.

Police then reopened the highways but requested drivers stay off a nearly 100-mile stretch of I-94 from the Indiana border to Battle Creek. “Units need time to clear roadway of numerous crashes,” MSP Fifth District tweeted.

In Mid-Michigan, police closed a section of northbound I-75 between Flint and Saginaw for several hours.

And in Ottawa County, the sheriff’s office urged people to avoid driving entirely Friday night. In a news release, Captain Jake Sparks said some roads were “impassable.”

“At this time, it is unsafe to drive,” Sparks said. “If you become stranded or your vehicle becomes disabled, there is a strong likelihood that wrecker services won’t be available to respond, and sheriff’s deputies may have trouble getting to you. Being stranded in these conditions can be life threatening.”

Officials said temperatures – which fell into the single digits – were too cold for road salt to be effective, blowing snow was hampering visibility, and snowdrifts were building up along highways in West Michigan.

Power companies reported scattered outages affecting a few thousand customers in the Lower Peninsula on Friday.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer said she was activating the state’s Emergency Operations Center “to respond to the hazardous weather conditions.” Whitmer’s office said the center will make additional state resources available to support local communities.

The National Weather Service predicts continuing blizzard conditions in West Michigan into Saturday morning, with snow showers lasting later into the day.

Copyright 2022 Michigan Radio. To see more, visit Michigan Radio.

Brett has a master’s degree from the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism and before Michigan Radio, he was an intern at WNYC and with Ian Urbina of the New York Times and worked at WXXI and WCMU. He also produced freelance reporting work focused on health and science in New York City. Brett grew up in Bremerton, Washington, and holds a bachelor’s degree from Willamette University in Salem, Oregon.