Slower snow moving in spring

Joshua Vissers/Daily Mining Gazette Seen here Friday morning, the Houghton Department of Public Works is busy clearing snow in the downtown.

Schools across Houghton, Keweenaw and Baraga counties were closed on Friday after a winter storm dumped several inches of snow across the western Upper Peninsula.

“The highest report we had, in the mountains west of Marquette, was 10 inches,” National Weather Service meteorologist Jordan Wendt said.

Reports in Copper Country varied between five to seven inches. Wendt said the wind at the Houghton County Memorial Airport peaked at 60 miles per hour around midnight.

He said it is difficult to know for sure what the snow would mean for current flooding along the Sturgeon River, but he said the additional precipitation would at the very least prolong the current situation.

Light, scattered rain is expected through the weekend.

“It should remain relatively dry,” Wendt said.

Houghton County Road Commission crews started clearing snow at 5:30 a.m. on Friday and would likely have a long day, according to HCRC engineer Kevin Harju.

“We’ve had a lot of breakdowns,” Harju said.

The wet, heavy snow puts strain on the plows and graders, which can cause weakened hydraulic hoses to burst and other issues for the drivers.

Harju said trees knocked down by the high winds also slowed the crews’ progress.

“We’re primarily using smaller plows because roads are soft,” he said.

The crews are avoiding using the bigger trucks with the V-plows because the roads have softened due to thawing from the warmer weather.

“They’re just too heavy to be out in these conditions,” Harju said.

Instead, crews are using the smaller sanding trucks and graders, which are lighter and have tires that will not dig into the paved or gravel roads. For the same reason, some dead-end streets might not get plowed.

“We don’t want our plows to turn around in the road and damage the road,” Harju said.

He said drivers are also being cautious on road damaged in last year’s floods, driving slower to avoid causing further damage to the roads or equipment.

Given all these seasonal considerations, Harju asked the public to be patient.

“We’re trying to get all the roads clear as fast as we can,” he said.

The wind and heavy snow also caused scattered power outages in the area.

An UPPCO spokesperson could not be reached for comment.