DETROIT (AP) — The threat of an immense wall of winter weather forced advance storm planning Tuesday in communities across the southern half of Michigan's Lower Peninsula and prompted the cancelations of meetings, museums, after-school activities and numerous high school sporting events.
Lawmakers in Lansing canceled Wednesday's sessions and committee meetings in anticipation of the storm.
The Kalamazoo County Jail shut down Wednesday's prisoner visitation. Wayne State University in Detroit canceled classes for Tuesday evening and Wednesday. Michigan State University officials said there would be no Wednesday classes.
All Detroit Public Schools activities scheduled to start after 6 p.m. Tuesday were canceled. The district planned to monitor the storm's path and severity before making a decision on Wednesday classes, spokesman Steve Wasko said.
A number of school districts in West Michigan canceled Wednesday classes a day ahead of the storm.
The first shift at General Motors' Flint Assembly plant will not run Wednesday.
From Muskegon in West Michigan to Lansing in the south-central part of the state southeast to Detroit, plows and their drivers were awaiting anywhere from 6 to more than 12 inches of snow starting Tuesday night. The National Weather Service issued blizzard warnings.
At Pri-Mart Fuel Center in Benton Harbor, the weather is "all everybody has been talking about," said Keith Martin, who was staffing the cash register at the truck stop off Interstate 94 in southwestern Michigan.
"All of them are talking about getting off the road," Martin said. "We can probably get 25 to 30 trucks parked in the back. It's free. At the next exit, they charge $10."
The storm will move into southwest Michigan at about 30 mph. Its path will take the snow northeast, possibly hitting the Lansing and Flint areas with as much as 15 inches of snow, according to Amos Dodson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Oakland County's White Lake Township.
"We expect a lot of blowing snow, poor visibility and dangerous driving conditions," he said.
As of 4 p.m. Tuesday, Gov. Rick Snyder had not activated the state's Emergency Operations Center, spokeswoman Sara Wurfel said.
"If we need to activate it, we're ready to go," she said.
State police and Homeland Security and community health officials would be among those staffing the center.
The Michigan National Guard "is at the ready to assist communities should it be needed," Wurfel added.
The storm also could have political ramifications for Detroit Mayor Dave Bing and help define his first term in office.
In January 1999, a three-day blizzard caught the city unprepared. Schools closed, mail delivery was slowed and many municipal operations halted as 26 inches of snow clogged residential streets and produced havoc for motorists able to get their vehicles onto main thoroughfares.
Thousands were held captive in their neighborhoods. The city's failure to prepare and plan dogged then-Mayor Dennis Archer for the remainder of his time in office.
Bing planned not to be caught napping by the storm, which could be the largest to hit Detroit and southeast Michigan since 12.2 inches fell Jan. 22-23, 2005.
The city's Homeland Security office and other departments met Tuesday afternoon to review Detroit's emergency operations plan and Department of Public Works procedures involving snow and ice removal.
A snow emergency could be declared by Bing if accumulations reach 6 inches or more. City crews would plow main roads while contractors would clear residential streets. Employee work schedules would be adjusted.
But Detroit, already buried by an avalanche-like budget deficit of at least $85 million, will have to fork over a significant amount of overtime, said one city union official.
"If we get as much snow as they're predicting ... I don't foresee any way around it," said Roger Rice, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 229 which represents mechanics who repair tow and salt trucks, and other city vehicles.
"We've been having to work overtime for the past two to three weeks just to keep up with maintaining the equipment," Rice said. "With a foot of snow coming, you can imagine how behind we'll be."
Bing has been balancing cost-cutting while trying to retain key city services.
"Our measurement will come in the form of safety and convenience for our citizens," Dumas said. "We want them to be prepared and know that we will do everything we can to respond to this storm. We need everyone to understand that things do take time, so we ask for patience, common courtesy and support for those who need assistance."
Associated Press Writers Ed White in Detroit and Kathy Hoffman and Tim Martin in Lansing contributed to this report.