- Associated Press - Friday, February 21, 2014

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) - Blowing snow caused whiteout conditions Friday in western Michigan, leading to numerous crashes on the roads, while strong winds caused scattered power outages and shut down the Mackinac Bridge.

In the Grand Rapids area, multiple crashes were reported, including along Interstate 96. A blizzard warning was posted for parts of the Upper Peninsula, where up to 11 inches of snow fell by late Friday morning.

“It’s going to be a very windy day,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Evan Webb in Grand Rapids.

In Allegan County, David Yettaw, 72, of Portage, died when his car struck a tour bus on U.S. 131. No one aboard the bus was injured.

The 5-mile Mackinac Bridge, which connects Michigan’s Upper and Lower peninsulas, was closed to all traffic due to poor visibility for much of the day. By evening, lanes were reopened, although certain vehicles required an escort.

A stretch of U.S. 2 north of the bridge near St. Ignace was closed for about six hours as police untangled a series of crashes involving three tractor-trailers and at least 13 other vehicles.

“Some of the injuries were severe. However, none appear to be life-threatening,” state police said.

In Muskegon County, whiteout conditions forced motorists to abandon their vehicles. In Oceana County, northbound U.S. 31 was shut down after a semi went off the roadway. In mid-Michigan, U.S. 127 near the Gratiot and Isabella County line to the Mount Pleasant area had lanes closed due to crashes.

Some Michigan school districts canceled classes, including many in the Flint area.

Rain and melting snow earlier in the week caused road flooding. In Port Huron, authorities authorized icebreaking efforts along the Black River to prevent flooding from hitting area homes.

Starting Friday and working over the next several days, crews in tug boats will begin at the mouth of the Black River and work inland. They’ll be breaking ice to allow better water flow. People are asked to stay off the ice.

“This year’s harsh winter has created ice buildup that has not been seen in years,” the Port Huron Public Safety Division said.

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