How residents, cities, schools keep warm

By: Sherri Kolade | Farmington Press | Published January 13, 2014

 Farmington resident Gregory Childers, 18, stands waiting ankle deep in snow for a bus ride to work on Grand River in Farmington, near Mooney Street.

Farmington resident Gregory Childers, 18, stands waiting ankle deep in snow for a bus ride to work on Grand River in Farmington, near Mooney Street.

Photo by Sherri Kolade


FARMINGTON/FARMINGTON HILLS — Schools were closed. Cities shuttered. People were cold and waiting for signs of Mother Nature to get back to her normal self. Brrr.

Thanks to the “polar vortex” — a persistent, large-scale cyclone located near one or both of a planet’s geographical poles — temperatures reached as low as 14 degrees below zero, with mounds of snow and frightening wind chills.

Baby, it was cold outside.

Just ask Dr. Sandford Vieder, Botsford Hospital’s medical director of trauma services, who said that during that week, 18 cold-related emergency patients were treated; a majority of them were either frostbitten, or had frostbite symptoms or hypothermia.

“That does not take into account all of the other kinds of things that the weather sort of sends our way, like falls and respiratory factors,” he said.

Vieder said avoiding exposure to cold elements and not taking unnecessary risks is vital.

“If you don’t need to be outdoors, don’t go outdoors,” he said. “Even healthy people can get into trouble pretty quickly with these types of extreme temperatures.”

He added that when going outside, layering up is essential.

Some people died from storm-related injuries, according to a press release from the Michigan State Police.

Since Jan. 4, 10 deaths have been attributed to the weather, according to the MSP.

From Owendale to Hastings, to Pontiac and beyond, some died from shoveling snow, vehicle crashes and heart attacks.

Because temperatures were as low as 2 degrees below zero in Farmington and Farmington Hills that week, both cities declared snow emergencies; Farmington Public Schools and Oakland Community College’s Orchard Ridge Campus followed suit. FPS was closed Jan. 6-9, and OCC closed Jan. 6 and 7.  

Farmington Public Safety Director Robert Schulz said the city would normally declare a snow emergency when six or more inches of snow is expected.

“In the event of a snow emergency, residents have 12 hours to remove their vehicles from the roadway,” Schulz said.  “This is to allow the city plow trucks to be able to clear off the road of snow from curb to curb. Vehicles not removed after 12 hours will be impounded.”

He added that although the city does not have an official warming center, officers have resources that people can contact for assistance.

Farmington City Manager Vincent Pastue said public safety is paramount when calling a snow emergency, and that calling the snow emergency Jan. 5 worked well for the city.

Farmington Hills City Manager Steve Brock said calling a snow emergency mostly relates to moving parked cars off of the public streets so the city can plow more effectively and efficiently.

“If the snow is wet and will stay frozen for a while, we are more likely to call an emergency, as plowing around those cars parked in the street will not be good for those cars, or the rest of the drivers in the area,” he said.

He added that during snow emergencies, the city provides residents a spot to park temporarily if they cannot figure out something on their own.  The Costick Center and City Hall are also always available for people to warm up.

In accordance with Farmington Hill’s City Code of Ordinances Article VI, Section 30-726 through 735, the city manager has the authority to declare a snow emergency, in which all vehicles must be removed from city streets to allow snowplow vehicles to clear the streets as safely, quickly and completely as possible.

Residents are notified about snow emergencies via broadcasts and telecasts on local television and radio stations, the city website, the city listserve, and law and the government notification service program Nixle. 

During winter months, Farmington Hill’s Department of Public Services is responsible for snow and ice control on city major roads, including industrial routes, five miles of school-designated bus routes, and 246 miles of local streets. The Road Commission for Oakland County maintains several of the other major mile roads within the city, according to the city’s website.

The National Weather Service forecasted during the polar vortex that statewide temperatures hovered around 0 degrees, with wind chills at 25 below or colder.

For 18-year-old Farmington resident Gregory Childers, the weather reports were all the more real Jan. 8, as he stood waiting ankle deep in snow for a bus ride to work on Grand River in Farmington, near Mooney Street. Childers said he stays warm outside by bundling up.

“Make sure your ears are covered — wear gloves and snow boots,” he said with a scarf covering his mouth.

Farmington resident Ashley Cepeda, 25, said she and her husband shoveled themselves out of their driveway in shifts Jan. 5.

“It has not been horrible. We were out shoveling all night long, but I noticed that we (our streets) got plowed finally (Jan. 7).”

Cepeda said it is effective to “like” city and municipal Facebook pages to find out the latest news on weather emergencies.

“(These Facebook pages) are great resource, in terms of updates,” she said, “making those aware.”

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