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Winter storm bringing heavy rain, snow, ice to West Michigan

Residents, power companies and road crews are bracing themselves for a winter storm that is headed into the region.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — This weekend, West Michigan is going to experience a severe winter storm, which will bring rain, snow and freezing rain to the region. The storm started Friday night and will go through Saturday. 

Communities should expect to see inches of freezing rain, inches of snow or both. But it's clear, the impact will vary—depending on where you are. However, there will be possible flooding, power outages and dangerous travel across the region. 

Road authorities shut down Fulton Street in Grand Rapids in both directions due to flooding. All lanes were blocked on Fullton Street between Robinson and Cascade Road. It was closed shortly before 11 a.m. Saturday.

By 1 p.m. lanes in both directions were open. 

Credit: 13 OYS
Flooding closed both directions of travel on Fulton Saturday morning.

Soaking rains arrived Friday. Colder air edged in and winds increased. Communities may measure 2-3" of rain when all is said and done, leading to potential localized flooding. The highest rainfall totals will fall in the south and east of West Michigan.

With the rain/snow line setting up right over West Michigan, the potential for substantial ice accumulation is looking very likely. Sleet may mix in with freezing rain, which will cut down on ice buildup but result in slushy roads.  

Winds will be gusty throughout the storm. Strong winds will increase the likelihood of power outages, especially if ice accumulates on trees and power lines.  

By Sunday, only light snow remains. Showers will exit to the northeast in the morning.

“Keeping Michiganders safe during severe weather is one of my top priorities,” said Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. “My office, along with state departments, will be closely monitoring weather conditions as they develop and proactively coordinating with emergency managers to support local response efforts as appropriate. We are also encouraging Michiganders to be safe and take precautions during these extreme weather conditions that are being predicted this weekend.”

How West Michigan prepped for the storm

Michigan State Police, Emergency Management and Homeland Security Division are encouraging Michiganders to prepare for the storm, including power companies and road crews are among them.

County road commissions have been monitoring conditions and make on-the-spot decisions. According to the Deputy Managing Director of Operations at the Kent County Road Commission, Jerry Byrne, too much rain would wash off any anti-icing chemicals. So, if the region sees a lot of rain, crews won't be using those kinds of chemicals. 

But, Byrne said crews are hauling in extra sand because roads would be very slick under those conditions. Crews are hoping to see snow first.

"If it snows first we may leave that snow, especially on the back roads so the rain soaks into the snow and doesn't make sheer ice," said Byrne.

RELATED: Tire chains added to Muskegon County plow trucks in anticipation of ice storm

"With freezing rain there is no traction like with snow," Byrne continued. "So, if you are talking about a freezing rain event of a half an inch, folks it is probably time to stay home."

Ice would also impact trees and power lines, according to Byrne. Even a thin layer of ice can severely damage tree limbs and bring them down.

Consumers Energy is also bracing for possible widespread power outages and us planning a response in the event of downed trees and power lines. 

Follow Consumers Energy's power outage map for updates.

How can you prepare for weekend of winter weather?

Michigan State Police encourages people to stay indoors if possible, and if you go outside make sure to bundle up and watch for signs of frostbite or hypothermia. They also tell people to minimize traveling. Don't forget, if a stop light is out, Michigan law tells drivers to treat it as a 4-way stop. 

Make sure you have emergency supplies in place for your home and car:

  • In your car: Make sure you have jumper cables, ice scrapers and blankets. Along with some snacks and extra water.
  • At home: Make sure you have enough food, water and medication to last you for at least 72 hours.

“Both flooding and freezing rain have the ability to be life-threatening,” said Capt. Emmitt McGowan, deputy state director of Homeland Security and commander of the MSP/EMHSD. “Michigan residents should take steps to prepare now. Keeping supplies like a flashlight, a portable radio and a working cell phone with a backup power source on-hand can help keep you and your family safe during an emergency.”

When preparing for outages, make sure to have coolers available to keep your refrigerated foods cold. Charge your electronic devices.

In order to prepare for a flood, Michigan State Police advises created an emergency kit with three gallons of water per person and extra for pets. Put important documents in a waterproof container and on the top floor of your house. Also, make sure to take photos of the interior and exterior of your home. 

If you have a generator make sure it's at least 20 feet away from your home so you don't have to worry about carbon monoxide poisoning.

And finally, try and have what you need at home so you can stay off the roads when the storm does hit your area.

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