Rick Hevelhorst, of Troy, skis at Sylvan Glen Golf Course after the snow fell and the cold abated Feb. 1.

Rick Hevelhorst, of Troy, skis at Sylvan Glen Golf Course after the snow fell and the cold abated Feb. 1.

Photo by Donna Dalziel


Old man winter roared in Troy

By: Terry Oparka | Troy Times | Published February 5, 2019

 Tony Porta, 2, and parents Mary and Anthony Porta, of Troy, sled down the hill at Sylvan Glen Golf Course Feb. 1 before the snow melted.

Tony Porta, 2, and parents Mary and Anthony Porta, of Troy, sled down the hill at Sylvan Glen Golf Course Feb. 1 before the snow melted.

Photo by Donna Dalziel

TROY — Half a foot of snow followed by extreme cold played havoc with school and work schedules and travel last week.

The weather prompted officials to close Troy School District schools Jan. 28, 30 and 31.

The state of Michigan determines the number of days — six — that schools may close each school year for storms, fires, health issues or problems with infrastructure.

Troy School District Superintendent Richard Machesky said Feb. 1 that the district had used four of these, so far, this school year.

“Beyond that (six days), they’re made up or (a district is) given forgiveness by the state,” Machesky said. “It’s not unheard of in other years for districts to be forgiven. Typically speaking, you’re going to make those days up.”

Parents and students in the Troy School District are alerted to school closures via text, voice and email messages; on social media; and through local news outlets as soon as it’s possible, depending on when the weather or other event occurs, he said.

“Typically, we have a group of Oakland County school district superintendents on a group conference call and confer with a meteorologist,” Machesky said. This may occur at 4:30 a.m. or earlier, if possible, he said, “recognizing that we want to give parents as much (lead) time as possible.”

“The timing (for weather events) has been challenging,” he noted. “We very much appreciate the patience of the community. We take into account how very difficult it is to arrange child care.”

He said that the Troy School District will close schools due to cold starting at wind chills of 20 degrees below zero.

The district kept parents up to date Jan. 29, when school was in session, outlining how and when decisions on closures would likely be made, said Kerry Birmingham, the director of communications and strategic initiatives for the Troy School District.

“People seemed to appreciate that,” she said. “We knew this would be unprecedented. We’ve never closed two days in advance.”

Birmingham said there were no building issues in the extreme cold and that all of the buses started the morning of Feb. 1.

“We were confident the temperatures would be high enough to open,” she said.

“We had several calls for service for frozen water meters and frozen pipes in homes,” Kurt Bovensiep, director of the Department of Public Works for the city of Troy, said via email. “Although this was not the city’s responsibility, the Water and Sewer Division was happy to inform residents on how to identify where the frozen pipe was and how to safely thaw the pipe or meter.

“Crews continued to perform tasks related to being outdoors. They took extra precautions with limiting their exposure by rotating in and out of the elements. The snowstorm accumulations varied in Troy from 5 to 6 inches. We had all subdivision roads cleared by 2 p.m. the following day (Jan. 29), which was 16 hours from when the snow stopped and well before our 24-hour goal.”

He said that Tringali Sanitation decided to delay Thursday’s refuse and recycling pickup by one day because of the extreme cold temperatures, and the city was supportive of the decision in the interest of workers.

Troy Police Department Sgt. Meghan Lehman said via email that police patrolled the roads looking for, “among other things, people stranded with broken-down cars. Several people had unexpected breakdowns on the roads, and we were able to help them get to safety.

“Lots of people experienced unexpected car issues during the extreme weather. For instance, a car broke down in the McDonald’s (restaurant) drive-thru.

“Proactive traffic enforcement continued during the polar vortex. We are consistently out looking for people driving in a manner that causes crashes and puts other people at risk,” she said.

Lehman said police also had to contend with responding to a higher-than-normal number of false alarms from alarm systems triggered by wind and extreme temperatures.

“We assisted road repair crews by closing lanes on Interstate 75 to ensure repairs of potholes could be done safely and expediently,” Lehman said.

“We had two drunk driving arrests during the polar vortex, which is remarkable only as it demonstrates that drunk driving can happen anytime. The roads were much less busy than normal throughout the two days, as many people did not venture out.”

She said police worked with employees of other city offices to set up a warming center in the Troy Community Center and remained on standby to transport people to it if needed.