(C. Proxmire, Dec. 13, 2017)
Did you wake up to find your neighborhood covered over with a layer of sparkly white frozen precipitation and a Facebook feed full of various warnings, advisories, and complaints? Though it can be disconcerting, don’t worry. It’s called snow, and it’s something we’ve dealt with for years as part of winter in Michigan.
There are things to think about to make these kinds of days go better though. Here are some frequently asked questions to consider:
Is school closed? If you have kids, likely your school district has a notification system in place or a hotline you can call. You can also check the school district’s website and Facebook page. Some other websites list school closings, but they just get the information from the school district. The most accurate information should be coming from them.
I have stuff to do. Is the city hall, court, library, post office etc. open? What about such-and-such business or restaurant? Sometimes when it snows it impacts a business or government office’s ability to open. Some may open late. Others may just take the day off. The best way to know, is to call or look at that entity’s website or Facebook page. Sometimes these places are not as savvy about letting their customers know when they are closed. If this is the case, make sure you rant about them online so they will learn their lesson. Or you could contact them directly and make a polite suggestion.
What’s a snow emergency, and does my city have one? Don’t worry. Even though it sounds bad, a snow emergency is really just the time when a city requires the streets to be cleared for plowing. Some cities have automatic snow emergencies when the snow gets to a certain depth. For example, if snow reaches four inches, there is automatically a snow emergency in Ferndale. Other cities make the call on a case-by-case basis. Some are automatically enforced in bad weather, and some are only for set times. Check your local city’s website or Facebook to find out more.
Do I need to move my car off the street? If there is a snow emergency in your city, then yes. If you don’t you could be ticketed or towed.
But I don’t want to move my car. I don’t have a driveway. It’s too far to park it somewhere else. We have too many cars to fit in our driveway. Etc. Do I really need to move it? In most cases, yes. If cars are in the street it makes it hard to plow. It also slows down the process significantly if plow drivers have to work around cars. Some cities do have permits to allow cars to remain on the street, but you’ll have to check with your local city clerk to find out how that works. Some cites also open up parking lots to help give people a place to park that is not on the street. Sometimes this is not very close to your house and you may need to walk a bit. It’s part of the sacrifices good neighbors make to get through winter. Your local city’s website should have this information available. If not, contact them and ask.
Do I have to shovel? For the most part, the answer is yes. Cities generally have ordinances requiring property owners to keep the sidewalks clear. If you don’t, you could be ticketed. In some places the city will clear the sidewalk and send you a bill. Also, keep in mind that some people have to be out walking, and clearing your sidewalk is a neighborly thing to do. Think of kids walking to school, neighbors out running errands and of course your trusty mail carrier. If you are disabled or a senior and you are unable to shovel, try talking to you neighbors about help, or contact OLHSA to see if you qualify for snow removal assistance. Their website is http://www.olhsa.org/complete-services.
As you shovel and salt, also be aware that earth-friendly alternatives to salt are out there: https://oaklandcounty115.com/2011/03/14/snow-melt-and-water-quality-tips-for-protecting-our-water/.
And don’t forget to shovel out fire hydrants, and leave a 2-3 foot space around them for emergencies.
Can I drive around with snow left on the top of my car? You could, but it is not legal and it puts other drivers at risk when it comes off in front of their cars on the roadway.
What if the plow pushes snow in my driveway? There is a technique for shoveling that can prevent this. Check it out at https://oaklandcounty115.com/2014/11/17/winter-tip-how-to-avoid-the-second-shovel-at-driveway/.
Can I shovel or plow snow into the street? No. The Road Commission for Oakland County has reminded folks that this can mean a fine or jail time.
Why is my street not plowed quickly enough? DPWs in most cities will plow based on some kind of priority. For example major streets like Woodward Ave. get plowed first, as well as streets that are important for other reasons, like being an emergency route, a main street, or a school route etc. Removing lots of snow requires lots of work, and time. Points 4 and 5 above are also factors in how quickly roads get plowed.
How does all this white stuff impact driving? Snow and ice make driving more challenging than when the roads are clear. The general rule is to go slow and not rush. The Michigan Dept. of Transportation has safe driving tips for winter at http://www.michigan.gov/mdot/0,4616,7-151-9615-227821–,00.html. There is a guide for driving on bad roads at https://oaklandcounty115.com/2014/03/13/mdot-posts-tips-for-driving-during-terrible-pothole-season/. There is also a mobile app for looking up traffic conditions. Learn more at https://oaklandcounty115.com/2014/11/13/mdot-releases-new-mobile-app-for-motorists/. You may also consider what you should have in your vehicle for emergencies. http://blog.allstate.com/super-vehicle-emergency-car-kit/.
I have pets. Does winter affect them? What about wild animals and feral cats? Yes, winter can be rough on animals too. Dogs and cats can freeze to death outside. Keep your warm and safe. You can also build outdoor shelters for outside animals. More information can be found here: http://www.redcross.org/prepare/disaster/winter-storm/protent-pets-during-snowstorms.
How do I protect myself in the cold? Preventing frostbite and hypothermia are important, as is making sure that you heat your home in safe manner. Check this list out for tips: https://oaklandcounty115.com/2013/01/23/take-precautions-during-cold-weather/.
What about homeless people? How can they stay warm? There are several warming centers through Oakland County. Some are daytime warming centers and some are overnight shelters. Some are walk in, while others are more rigid programs that require registration. Here is a list of places to check out or refer others to: https://oaklandcounty115.com/2017/12/06/resources-for-those-in-need-2017-2018/. Also, sometimes cities will open up temporary warming centers in community centers, libraries etc. Check your local city’s website to see if any are available.
Is there anything I should do around the house now that it’s winter? Yes. Plumbing can be vulnerable to damage in the wintertime. Waterwork Plumbing has provided a list of things to check around the house to avoid freezing pipes and other damage: https://oaklandcounty115.com/2015/01/05/waterworks-gives-plumbing-tips-for-winter
How much snow have we gotten? How much more will we get? How cold is it? There are many websites that give this type of information. If you look to the right side of the Oakland County 115 News there is a weather widget that is done by the National Weather Service. You can also go to their page directly at http://forecast.weather.gov/MapClick.php?lat=42.66306&lon=-83.41#.VM9kCy7-WDk. Ours is set for Pontiac, but once you’re at their website you can easily search for more city-specific weather information.
I’ve got the winter blues. Any suggestions? If you’re looking for things to do to get you out of the house, check out our Event Page at: https://oaklandcounty115.com/events/. If you feel sad, anxious, or depressed, consider exploring resources or contacting the folks at Common Ground: http://commongroundhelps.org/.
Also if you want to feel warm and fuzzy, consider being part of our Online Community Garden to support local jouralism at https://oaklandcounty115.com/reader-support/.