- Associated Press - Monday, February 2, 2015

DETROIT (AP) - The rumble of plows and roar of blowers shook many neighborhoods in communities across parts of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula Monday as road crews and homeowners worked to dig out from 1½ feet of snow and the Detroit area’s biggest snowfall in four decades.

A slow-moving winter storm spanned about 24 hours after moving into southeast Michigan early Sunday morning. Coming with it were wind gusts that covered sidewalks, streets, roads and freeways with the quickly accumulating snow.

“It is Michigan. It is February,” Gina Nitz of Roseville told The Detroit News while waiting at a bus stop Monday morning to get to work. “I just hope this doesn’t mean winter will last until May.”

Students at hundreds of Michigan schools got three-day weekends. Morning shifts at some auto plants also were canceled, partly due to dangerous driving conditions. Police said freeway off-ramps were especially problematic.

At least 15 vehicles were involved in a crash Monday morning along a stretch of U.S. 131 in Grand Rapids. One person was injured.

Three men who went snowmobiling during the storm also died in separate crashes. One man struck a tree in Clare County. Another struck a gate in Oakland County, while the third was hit by a pickup truck in Berrien County.

“Many (roads) are covered with plowed snow or snow drifts,” Michigan State Police Lt. Michael Shaw said in an email. He said police were still seeing “spinout crashes.”

The National Weather Service reported that 16.7 inches fell at Detroit Metropolitan Airport in Romulus, marking the area’s most snow since a 19.3-inch dump in December 1974 and the third biggest snowfall on record.

The Kalamazoo and Battle Creek areas were among the hardest hit, with totals ranging from about 12 to 18.5 inches. A report of 15 inches was listed for Kalamazoo.

Ann Arbor got 14.1 inches of snow, while the Grand Rapids and Lansing areas had reports of 9 to 12 inches.

First shifts at all area Fiat Chrysler assembly plants were down due to high absenteeism. Ford Motor Co.’s Dearborn Truck, Michigan Assembly and Romeo Engine plants also were closed. General Motors canceled first shifts at its assembly plants in Lansing, Delta Township and Orion and its Toledo transmission plant.

Freeways and main streets in the Detroit area were mostly plowed by mid-afternoon as many county and municipal crews worked through the storm to keep them clear. However, side streets connecting to more heavily traveled roads were slushy and tough to navigate.

“It’s going to be a couple of days before we get to the subdivision streets. They’re bad,” Macomb County Department of Roads Director Robert Hoepfner told the Macomb Daily of Mount Clemens.

Many state and local government offices closed for the day, including the state Legislature and the Michigan Supreme Court and Court of Appeals also closed offices.

Detroit suspended trash collection.

Flight delays and cancelations were reported in Detroit, Grand Rapids and Flint.

The weather prompted officials to postpone plans to give away jugs of water to Flint residents wary of what’s coming through their taps as the city transitions to a new municipal water system. The event was rescheduled for Tuesday.

Monday’s school closings included most districts in the Detroit area, including Detroit Public Schools. Closings also were reported in the Kalamazoo, Grand Rapids, Ann Arbor and Muskegon areas, among others. A number of colleges and universities also closed, including the University of Michigan.

Michigan State University modified operations and suspended classes until noon at its East Lansing campus.

The storm also forced the cancellation of a federal nutrition official’s visit to Detroit’s Frederick Douglass Academy for Young Men to see some of its fresh foods initiatives in action.

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