Flood watch in effect

High temps meet high snow for flood worries

News Photo by Julie Riddle Pools of standing water and bumpy ridges of ice make for precarious travel at an intersection in northern Alpena.

ALPENA — Blizzard conditions in the central plains translate into wet roads and sodden sidewalks for residents of Northeast Michigan.

The storm system making news for hurricane-force winds in Colorado and the central U.S. is also responsible for rainy conditions that kept hoods up and shoulders hunched locally on Wednesday and Thursday, according to meteorologist Jeff Lutz of the National Weather Service office in Gaylord.

While we will not see the flooding of historic proportions that is endangering towns and lives in other parts of the country, area roads are due for some low-level flooding of their own that may make motorists slow down or even find a different route home.

Rainy days are coming on top of a warm spell that added its own layer of wetness to the roads. Temperatures in or near the 40s in the past few days, while welcome to many as a break from the chill of a cold winter, have contributed to the quick melting of snow mounds that surround area homes and businesses .

As snowbanks go down, the potential for flooding on area roads goes up.

As a result, the Weather Service has issued a flood watch for Northeast Michigan counties through Friday night. Motorists are advised to use caution on any roads that contain standing water.

Puddled water can hide ice, Lutz said, making an extra-slippery surface out of what seems like a safe road. After a winter’s wear and tear, standing water can also hide potholes and other flaws that can do damage to a vehicle, Lutz cautioned.

“If you can’t see what’s under the water, you probably shouldn’t drive on it,” Lutz said.

Icy and wet roads kept Alpena students home for another day on Thursday. Buses went out on their morning routes but were not able to get traction on back roads, according to Alpena Public Schools Superintendent John VanWagoner. Roads were icy but manageable Wednesday, but, after rain began around 6 a.m. Thursday, back roads became too slippery to navigate safely.

Five buses in the fleet reported getting stuck after sliding off the side of the road, according to VanWagoner.

“At that point, I couldn’t risk any more buses getting stuck, so the best thing that made sense was to stop there, take the few kids home that we had picked up, and try to get ready to go for tomorrow,” VanWagoner said.

The buses were pulled out with a wrecker or by another bus, or drivers were able to extricate themselves by using dirt or sand under the tires and going back and forth until they were freed, the superintendent said.

Once temperatures drop by late Friday, the snowpack should remain stable or melt at a slower rate for the foreseeable future, Lutz said. Temperatures next week will once again be warmer in the daytime, up into the 40s, according to Lutz. But nighttime temperatures will fall below freezing, keeping snow from melting at a rate that will create a danger of flooding. In the meantime, the white piles are gradually becoming brown piles, reminding passersby why their mothers told them it wasn’t a good idea to eat snow.

Julie Riddle can be reached at 989-358-5693 or jriddle@thealpenanews.com.