The sun peeks through  the trees  Jan. 31 near the Southfield Town Center skyline.

The sun peeks through the trees Jan. 31 near the Southfield Town Center skyline.

Photo by Kayla Dimick

Cities battle wacky winter weather

By: Kayla Dimick | Southfield Sun | Published February 6, 2019


SOUTHFIELD/LATHRUP VILLAGE — Wild winter weather frosted and exhausted Southfield and Lathrup Village residents and government services the week of Jan. 28 as city buildings, schools and streets faced disruptions due to a one-two wallop of snow and subzero temperatures.

Several inches of snow fell in Southfield and Lathrup Village on Monday, Jan. 28. In preparation, Southfield Public Schools decided the previous night at around 10 p.m. to cancel classes for Monday.

While Southfield Public Schools opened back up on Tuesday, Jan. 29, schools again closed their doors on Wednesday, Jan. 30, and Thursday, Jan. 31, due to severe cold temperatures that fell well below zero. Meteorologists blamed the polar vortex for the frigid weather.

At 12:54 p.m. Jan. 28, Southfield declared a snow emergency, which meant that vehicles had to stay off the streets so the snowplows could do their work. Street parking was prohibited until the city called off the snow emergency. The Southfield Public Library, the 46th District Court and all city departments closed at 2 p.m. that day.

Lathrup Village declared a snow emergency at 3:25 p.m. and announced that city administrative offices would close at 3:30 p.m. that day, and again closed its doors due to the frigid temperatures Jan. 31.

Both cities opened up warming centers at their respective city halls, offering residents a place to enjoy hot drinks, snacks and charge their electronics safe from the dangerous wind chills.

Southfield Fire Chief Johnny Menifee said firefighters and paramedics responded to several incidents in relation to the weather, but nothing out of the ordinary.

Acting Southfield Police Chief Nick Loussia said in an email that officers did not face anything out of the ordinary during the week.

Menifee said crews made sure to prepare ahead of the cold snap, however.

“We brought on extra staff during those very cold days, and we prepped all our vehicles for cold weather, as well as the firefighters with extra hats and gloves,” Menifee said. “We tried to get them out of the elements as quickly as we can. We had a lot of backup equipment and gear.”

Menifee said his crews practice for both ends of the thermometer — whether it’s cold or hot out, they’re ready to do their jobs.

“We knew it was coming and we prepared quite well for it. We were prepared to handle everything we were faced with during that 48- to 72-hour window,” he said.

No injuries due to the elements were reported, Menifee added.

Southfield Public Works Operations Manager Larry Sirls and Menifee said crews responded to several reports of burst pipes due to the swing in temperatures.

At press time, Sirls said crews had responded to 50 homes throughout the city with burst pipes.

Ahead of the cold snap, city officials posted information on how residents could keep their pipes from freezing.

“You want to keep warm any plumbing that might be up against outside walls. Open up your cabinet doors under the sink, and you should heat your crawl space,” Sirls said. “Put heat tape on pipes that are exposed that let the water run. That will keep you safe.”

Sirls said his crews did not suffer any injuries from being exposed to the elements.

“It’s a lot of coats and a lot of rotating out (crew members),” he said. “It’s always layers. Protect your skin and don’t leave anything exposed. When you work outside, you know that feeling when you need to get inside and warm up.”

Staff Writer Eric Czarnik contributed to this report.