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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) - Snow and ice are creating hazardous driving conditions in Michigan.

MLive.com reports 10 slide-offs and minor crashes Monday morning across parts of western Michigan.

No serious injuries were immediately reported. Much of western Michigan is fresh off of seeing anywhere from 1 to 4 inches of snow on Sunday. Slippery roads also were reported in other parts of the state, including the Detroit and Kalamazoo areas.

The National Weather Service says the most snow is forecast in parts of Michigan's Upper Peninsula and northern Lower Peninsula, where advisories urging caution were issued. By the time the snow wraps up Monday, a total of 3 to 8 inches is expected in Chippewa and Mackinac counties.

Driverless cars might just be a futurist's dream-no longer. The University of Michigan has announced its plans to bring a fleet of networked, driverless cars to Ann Arbor by the year 2021. We have the details on today's show.

And the temperatures are falling and parts of Michigan have snow on the ground. We asked if winter has already arrived.

Also, the Farm Bill passed last January took an important subsidy away from organic farmers. What does the loss of this subsidy mean to organic farmers in Michigan? And does a farm have to go through the trouble and expense of getting certified to be organic?

First on the show, it's been less than a week since voters in three very different Michigan cities all approved ballot initiatives allowing small amounts of marijuana for personal use on private property.

And that has pro-marijuana advocates hoping those votes will boost pressure on state lawmakers to legalize or decriminalize pot.

Michigan Public Radio Network's Lansing correspondent Jake Neher joined us today to give an overview of what efforts are underway.

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Time for a little "Told ya so!" from MLive Meteorologist Mark Torregrossa. Back on Halloween, he predicted a very early dose of lake-effect snow and  temps that feel more like Christmas than mid-November.

And, looking at the weather around the state for this November 11th, it does seem that he called it.

Meteorologist Mark Torregrossa joined us today.

Listen to the full interview above.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Michigan veterans get little benefits compared to other states

"This Veterans Day, Michigan has the dubious distinction of having its military veterans among those receiving the least government benefits of any in the 50 states. Michigan’s more than 650,000 veterans get about $3,400 on average in benefits. That's compared with a national average of nearly $5,000 a year," Steve Carmody reports.

Click here to see what Michigan lawmakers are doing to help veterans

Senate committee will investigate if teachers are following right to work laws

A new state Senate committee will look at how teacher unions are complying with Michigan’s controversial right-to-work law this week. As the Detroit Free Press reports,

The right-to-work laws prohibit the financial contribution to a union as a condition of employment. . . Democrats and officials with the Michigan Education Association call the committee a politically motivated exercise meant to beat up on unions. . . . The Mackinac Center has filed suit with the Michigan Employment Relations Commission on behalf of eight teachers who say they have been unable to leave their union because they didn’t withdraw in August.
 

UP could get 6 inches of snow

"A cold weather system is bearing down on Lake Superior. . .  The weather service forecasts some of the heaviest snow near Munising along the Upper Peninsula's Lake Superior shoreline, with about 4 to 6 inches accumulating by Monday afternoon. One to 3 inches could fall in parts of northern Lower Michigan," the Associated Press reports.

If you are in a part of Michigan that gets lake effect snow, you might want to get your snow shovel out from the back of the garage.

 MLive Meteorologist Mark Torregrossa thinks we could be in for an early dose of lake effect snow.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Storm dumps at least 6 inches on Michigan

A wet snow storm dropped at least 6 inches of snow on part of Michigan. As the Associated Press reports,

"The National Weather Service says as of Wednesday morning 6 inches fell in the Grand Haven and Muskegon areas, while 5 inches fell between Lansing and Jackson. Four to 5 inches fell in Grand Rapids. Four inches fell in some Detroit suburbs and Saginaw," the Associated Press reports.

Low income earners could see bigger tax refunds under bill

"Low-income Michiganders would see bigger state income tax refunds under a bill in the state Legislature. Governor Rick Snyder and lawmakers aggressively cut the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit in recent years. The legislation would raise the credit to 20 percent of what the federal government offers. Right now, it’s at six percent," Jake Neher reports.

Mike Duggan announces run for Detroit mayor

The former Detroit Medical Center executive and Wayne County prosecutor, Mike Duggan has officially announced that he will be running for Detroit mayor. According to the Associated Press, "[Duggan] says he'll use his managerial and government experience to help turn around Detroit's finances and improve poor public services."

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

ALLEGAN, Mich. (AP) - Western Michigan is cleaning up after a winter storm that brought 15 inches or more of snow in some areas, and the National Weather Service says up to 10 inches of fresh snow is possible through Monday night.

The weather service says parts of Allegan, Kent, Ottawa and Van Buren counties got more than 15 inches between Wednesday night and Saturday night. It says fresh snow will start falling Sunday, bringing two to four inches inland and localized accumulations of up to 10 inches along Lake Michigan.

Ingham County

U.S. 23 was shut down in both directions just south of Flint after a multi-vehicle accident was caused by a snow squall. At least 20 vehicles were involved. The Detroit News reports traffic is back up and running on northbound 23 :

A dispatcher at the Flint post of the Michigan State Police said traffic was moving again on northbound U.S. 23 as of 2 p.m., and that southbound would be reopened as soon as several cars were towed from the roadway.

Crews from the Genesee County Road Commission were also called in to erect barricades to move traffic away from the area.

And WOOD-TV reports that weather conditions caused a shut down on I-94 westbound near Paw Paw, Michigan just before 2 p.m. when two semi-trucks collided.

The National Weather Service reports that snow is expected to continue to fall across much of the state into tomorrow.

As a strong cold front moves offshore over the Atlantic, the cold air behind it will help produce lake effect snow across the Great Lakes region on Thursday and Friday. As much as 5-10 inches of lake effect snow is possible through Thursday night, with additional accumulation expected on Friday. In addition, temperatures 20-40 degrees below normal are forecast for the Upper Midwest.

michigan.org

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) - Spotty snowfall in the Upper Midwest is making some business owners happy and hurting others.

Snow accumulation is below normal across the region for the second consecutive winter. It's picked up over the past week as temperatures have fallen dramatically. But some areas are having a feast and others a famine.

Sarah Long says bare ground caused her resort in Michigan's Upper Peninsula to lose nearly three weeks' worth of reservations. But heavy lake-effect snow in recent days has turned things around.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

COMMERCE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) - Southeastern Michigan residents are making the best of the region's first big snowstorm of the season, which peaked during the evening rush hour and snarled road traffic and air travel.

The fringe of the storm pushed into populous metropolitan Detroit on Wednesday afternoon, and the National Weather Service says it should taper off Thursday.

Snowfalls were topping half a foot by late Wednesday, with 6.5 inches already on the ground in Ann Arbor.

Crystal Mountain Ski Resort

Michigan's ski resorts are taking advantage of the wintry weather.

This is a big week for the snow sports industry....with families able to hit the slopes during the holiday break.  

Mickey MacWilliams directs the Michigan Snowsports Industries Association.

She says new artificial snow technology will allow for better skiing conditions this year.

"Even if there isn't snow in your backyard, if it's 28 degrees or below, our ski areas are covered with snow," she said.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

A website is launching just in time to help parents monitor and improve winter driving skills for teen drivers.

The University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute created the site called - "safer driving for teens dot org".

“This promotes parents and teens communication with each other and clarity and what it is that’s expected. And some consequences…what will happen if the restrictions are not met,” says Jean Shope.  She’s with the Institute.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

TROY, Mich. (AP) - Northern Michigan has had its first big snowstorm of the season, and the South is awaiting its introduction to winter this week.

Most Michiganians awoke to a white Christmas after a moderate snowfall on Christmas Eve made travel risky and caused dozens of spinout accidents around the state.

The Upper Peninsula and northern Lower Peninsula got up to 20 inches of snow in a storm that hit last Thursday, and the weather service says a storm expected to push across southeastern Michigan will bring four to seven inches on Wednesday and Thursday.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Michigan population increases for the first time in seven years

Michigan gained population in 2012 for the first time in seven years, the Detroit News reports.

'This halts a decade of population losses, but population is still growing far slower than other states. U.S. Census Bureau estimates released Thursday show the state grew at just 0.1 percent, adding 6,559 residents to 9,883,360.'

Snow dumps 14 inches in northern Michigan

"A snowstorm hitting the Midwest has dumped more than 10 inches of snow in northern Michigan and knocked out power to at least 60,000 state electricity customers. The weather service says snowfall totals could reach 13 inches in northern Michigan and 14 inches in northern lower Michigan before the storm exits Michigan Friday," the Associated Press reports.

Snyder signs personal property tax and mining legislation

"Governor Rick Snyder has signed a plan to phase out the state’s tax on business and industrial equipment. Manufacturers, in particular, say the tax discourages investment in Michigan. Snyder also approved an overhaul of how mining in Michigan is taxed. The new tax on mining production will replace a hodgepodge of taxes paid by mines," Rick Pluta reports.

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The snowstorm moving through the upper Midwest is affecting flights out of Detroit Metro.

The Detroit Free Press reports that flights flying between Detroit Metro and several Iowa and Wisconsin destinations have been canceled.

Flights to and from Chicago O'Hare airport were running an average of 1 hour 52 minutes late this morning, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. Chicago Midway was also experiencing delays. Delays were caused by wind ahead of the storm. Delta Flight 1257 from O'Hare to Detroit was canceled, but other flights between Detroit and Chicago were still on the schedule.

It's been a mild winter, and, so far, a big disappointment for people who enjoy playing in the snow.

Some people are getting desperate.

Amy Biolchini reports for the Port Huron Times Herald that people in the small city of St. Clair held an informal dance ritual last night commanding "the power of the Finnish God of Snow" to bring down the white stuff.

The town needs snow for its annual "Winter White Out" festival which includes a snowman building contest, a snowball toss, and frozen chicken bowling.

The impromptu dancing seemed to pay off. From the Port Huron Times Herald:

Shimmying and shaking, hooting and hollering, the group of enthusiastic dancers called for "Snow! Snow! Snow!"

As they danced, the flakes actually did appear to increase in intensity -- coating the area in a glittering blanket.

"I can't believe it worked!" Skonieczny said, citing the 0% chance of precipitation in the forecast for the city.

As Biolchini reports, there are no official moves to the snow dance, so the ubiquitous "jazz hands" were employed.

The lack of snow has led to a tough winter season for some businesses in Michigan. Interlochen Public Radio's Peter Payette recently reported for the Environment Report that most ski resorts up north are doing o.k. because they've been able to make snow:

But for businesses that depend on snowmobile traffic this time of year, things couldn’t be much worse. They’ve had just one weekend of business all winter.

If there isn't enough snow for the Winter White Out festival, it sounds like they'll still have fun. There are less snow-dependant events like poetry contests, a "dunk tank," and a McDonald's "bun toss."

Patrick Stephan / Michigan Radio

“Any resort operator will tell you this week between Christmas and New Years is a very very important week,” said Steve Kershner, president of the Michigan Snowsports Industries Association.

Much of Michigan was painted white overnight.

The National Weather Service was predicting totals of an inch yesterday afternoon, and up to six inches overnight in parts of southern Michigan. It appears a bit more snow fell than predicted.

From the Associated Press:

Storms brought heavy snow to parts of southern Michigan, with up to 9.5 inches reported in the Lansing area.

The National Weather Service says 7 to 9.5 inches of snow fell by Wednesday morning around Lansing. That came after heavy rains flooded some areas Tuesday.

Winter storm watches were issued. The storms left thousands without power.

The Saginaw area had reports of about 6 inches of snow. In southeast Michigan, the weather service says the Detroit area got anywhere from a dusting to about 3 inches.

The weather service says snow totals in the Jackson and Battle Creek areas were up to 5 inches, while Kalamazoo had 3 to 4 inches. Grand Rapids, however, avoided the snow.

Tuesday's rains closed several roadways, including part of the Southfield Freeway near Detroit.

National Weather Service

It started last night and is expected to continue through tonight.

Winter storm warnings will remain in effect until 8 p.m. tonight for many communities north of I-94.

Areas east of Kalamazoo along the I-94 corridor to Detroit are under the less menacing "winter weather advisories" until 2 p.m. today.

From the National Weather Service:

Moderate to heavy snow is expected around Midland, Bay City and Bad Axe.  Freezing Rain, Sleet and Snow is expected from a Howell to Pontiac to Mount Clemes line north to a Saginaw to Sandusky line - including the cities of Flint, Lapeer, and Port Huron.  Light Freezing Rain is expected across the Detroit Metropolitan region.

You can follow the National Weather Service's updated forecasts using the following links:

National Weather Service

We got a taste of it, so no worries, spring will be here soon enough. Winter just isn't ready to say goodbye yet.

The region will see colder than normal temperatures for the next week, and rain, snow, ice - you name it - is coming with those cold temperatures.

Here are the forecasts from the National Weather Service:

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Wayne County has fired the head of its roads division after getting deluged with complaints about unplowed roads.

Metro Detroit has as much as ten inches of snow on the ground after a storm earlier this week.

Michelle Smart commutes to her job at Ford in Dearborn using the Southfield Freeway. She says on Monday’s drive, people were trying to make lanes where they could through the snow.

"The plows had not come through. It was extremely slippery and dangerous."

Road crews across the state have been struggling to keep up with this winter’s near-record snowfall with budgets that are much smaller than in years past.

Ten years ago, Wayne County had more than 700 people working for the roads division during the winter months. This year it has a little more than 300.

Have you forgotten about the snow already?
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

It’s not just your imagination.

We haven’t been able to get much of a break from what’s shaping up to be a very tough January and February in Michigan, weatherwise.

"It has been a horrible winter -- lately," says George Wetzel of the National  Weather Service in Grand Rapids. "I'll use Lansing as an example. The snowfall thus far this month has been 24.9 inches. That's only 18 inches less than the entire year."

 And it’s not over. Wetzel says more snow is expected Thursday night– a wet, heavy snow that will be difficult to shovel. 

NOAA

The National Weather Service (NWS) says a "quick hitting" storm is on the way for southeast Michigan:

A quick hitting...rapidly deepening low pressure system will track Northeast through the Ohio valley tonight...towards Pittsburgh by Friday morning. This is historically a favorable track for heavy snow in Detroit. Snow is expected to overspread parts of southeast Michigan around midnight and become heavy at times south of the M-59 corridor by the Friday morning rush hour. Snow will taper off during the late morning hours and end around noon on Friday. Northerly winds will also increase late tonight into Friday morning with gusts to 30 mph.

The NWS says "the Interstate 94 corridor is forecasted to see the most snow from this system."

Here's the "hazardous weather outlook" for west Michigan around the Grand Rapids area:

Snow will return tonight especially for southern-lower Michigan. Some of the snow could be heavy with impacts to travel likely. Snow will end Friday morning.  Roads could be snow covered and slick for the morning commute.

Snow is possible  on Saturday...but accumulations are not expected to be heavy. Freezing rain will be possible Sunday night.  A risk for accumulating snow exists on Monday.

For mariners...gales are possible on Monday on Lake Michigan.

David Wilson / Flickr

More than 100,000 utility customers in southern Michigan lost power from the "Presidents' Day storm" that hit the state Sunday and Monday... and they're likely to remain without electricity for at least two more days. The Associated Press reports:

Consumers Energy spokesman Tim Pietryga said in a statement Tuesday that most of the Jackson-based utility's customers without power are in Kalamazoo, Lenawee, Monroe, Hillsdale, Calhoun and Branch counties. More than 160,000 customers have been affected.

Pietryga said workers, including 100 utility crews from Indiana and Ohio, should return power to most blacked-out customers by late Thursday evening.

But power may not return to the hardest-hit counties until Friday. DTE Energy Co. reported no major outages.

Six to 10 inches of snow, along with sleet and ice, fell on Lower Michigan between Sunday and Monday.

Scott Denny / Flickr

The state's three main airports report business has returned almost to normal, after crews spent the evening clearing runways of snow and ice.  Up to ten inches fell overnight.  In many cases, that was more snow than fell during the so-dubbed "Snowpocalypse," a few weeks ago. 

Detroit Metro Airport spokesman Mike Conway says the big problem last night was the roadways leading to the airport.  He says it took a long time for taxis to return from outlying suburbs, and there was congestion as cars and taxis lined up outside terminals.

Sami / Flickr

Say 'goodbye' to Spring. For now, at least. After unseasonably warm temperatures last week, winter weather has returned. As the Associated Press reports:

A winter storm that blew through the upper Midwest over the long Presidents Day weekend has dumped a hand bag of snow, sleet and ice on Michigan, canceling flights, closing schools and making driving treacherous for early morning commuters.

The National Weather service in White Lake Township says by Monday morning six to 10 inches of snow fell on southern Michigan since the storm began Sunday afternoon.

Officials were urging people to stay off the roads if possible, rather than risk driving on icy roads or through wind-driven snow.

Hundreds of flights were canceled at Detroit Metropolitan Airport. AAA Michigan spokeswoman Nancy Cain tells The Detroit News that by early Sunday evening, about 1,900 requests for assistance in spinouts and minor accidents had been taken.

Kalamazoo Public Schools and Flint Public Schools are closed today. The U-M Dearborn campus is closed as well.

Lindsay Smith / Michigan Radio News

Ok, so we all know that this week's winter storm caused copious amounts of snow and ice to blanket much of the state. And, of course, we couldn't forget the school closings and sore backs (hey, shoveling a foot of snow out of a driveway is strenuous!).

But, what about the actual financial impact of a huge winter storm? Just how much money did all that snow cost the state? Hard to quantify? It sure would seem like it. But, one firm, IHS Global Insight, has decided to go ahead and try to figure the economics out.

In a report released this week titled, The Economic Costs of Disruption from a Snowstorm, IHS said the storm had a $251 million a day economic impact in Michigan. The study took into account both direct (think loss of income because of a missed day of work) and indirect effects (such as lost sales in the local economy) of the storm into account when figuring out the numbers.

Aside from the actual economic data, IHS also reached three conclusions about the financial impact of winter storms, and I quote:

  1. Among all economic classes, snow-related shutdowns harm hourly workers the worst, accounting for almost two thirds of direct economic losses.
  2. The indirect economic impacts of snow-related shutdowns, including loss of retail sales and income and sales tax revenues, roughly double the initial economic impact.
  3. The economic impact of snow-related closures far-exceeds the cost of timely snow removal. Although states and localities may be hesitant to expand significant upfront resources in the short-term, the long-term payoff more than justifies the expense.
user Cseeman / Flickr

The National Weather Service is releasing data on just how much snow fell during the massive winter storm that sweep across the state this week. South Haven, on the coast of Lake Michigan, saw 20 inches of snow on the ground. That's the largest snowfall so far reported, according to the Associated Press. Muskegon got 19.7 inches. A foot of snow fell in the Lansing area. Flint got 10 inches, Detroit got 8.7 inches.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The east side of the state may have been spared the brunt of the storm but in Grand Rapids the nearly 16 inches of snow in a 24-hour period could prove record setting

Chad Doty shovels a foot of snow off the sidewalk of a Big Boy in downtown Grand Rapids. It’s normally packed during lunch but today it’s closed. He’s been out shoveling for hours.

 “We tried to get out at like 1 o’clock (in the morning) but the weather was just too bad I couldn’t see the drive. So I had to pack it up, got back out at about 4 o’clock I think and just started the grind.”

Doty says he’ll work until early evening, take a nap, and head back out. He says the extra snow means extra cash for him. 

The busses are running, even though all universities, many schools and businesses are closed today.

Mayor George Heartwell refused to declare a snow emergency. City workers are working around the clock to clear the streets. He says all of them should be clear by Friday. Heartwell is asking those physically able to do so help clear snow away from fire hydrants, and keep cars off the streets if possible.

City leaders say they expect around 16 inches total. That’s nearly equal to the record set more than 20 year ago. 

Hal and Judy Fruit trek down a normally busy street in snow shoes they got for Christmas.

“It’s a good storm but I think they overblew it a little bit. It’s Michigan. It’s snow. It’s winter. No big deal. You know you live with it. Roads are clear. The sun is out. It’s beautiful!”

Just under 400 people in Kent County were without power, but are expected to be back online before the end of the day.

Winter Storm Pictures

Feb 2, 2011
Tamar Charney / Michigan Radio

The blizzard warnings are over and people in Michigan are spending the day digging out.

More than a foot of snow fell in many parts of the state.

The snow fall in Grand Rapids has almost eclipsed a record (16.1 inches in 24 hours). Reporter Lindsey Smith says the count stands at 15.9 inches as of this morning. There's still time to get .2 inches by 2pm, so the record may fall.

Click on the photos above to see a slideshow of the snow arriving around the state.

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