As record-breaking winter storms swept the Midwest and East this week, East Lansing felt the brunt of the blizzard. Hours of snow causing street backups, slipping and sliding, store sellouts and shut schools.
In the days leading up to the initial dump, the City of East Lansing issued social media blasts warning about weather, and the CATA bus system prefaced route cancellations. Overnight parking on the streets of downtown East Lansing was suspended for the duration of the storm, but parking in the various downtown ramps was free until the emergency ended.
The nonstop precipitation began Tuesday night and continued over 24 hours, giving the plow teams a busy week. Ronald Lacasse, Infrastructure Administrator of the Department of Public Works, said that because the storm was predicted several days in advance, the department was able to schedule a larger team than usual about 24 hours in advance, and prep the heavy-duty equipment necessary.
Plow drivers worked 16-hour shifts and came back seven hours later to do it all again for the duration of the storm. The work did not end until the roads were safe, plowing well into Friday morning.
A team of 25 to 30 drivers covered East Lansing through the duration of the storm, and Lacasse said it was fortunate the department has not suffered from the staffing shortages so prevalent elsewhere.
“Our crews work odd hours on call, give up family time, and put in long shifts to keep everyone safe,” said Lacasse. “They don’t get to shovel their own driveways, because they’re out plowing everyone else’s.”
As the streets become more and more slippery, and the plow teams tried their best to reach the major roads, the East Lansing Police Department was stretched thin responding to an increased volume of traffic emergencies. Only four officers and one supervisor are on duty during each 12-hour shift, and due to staffing issues the department was unable to pull in extra help on these high-risk days.
“We just want everyone to stay safe, take their time, and be aware,” said Lt. Chad Pride. He said that within the 13 square miles of roadway the police department covers, there are four main high-risk intersections of concern during slippery conditions. Police have to pay extra attention to the intersections of Hagadorn and Grand River roads, Saginaw Street and Abbot Road, Lake Lansing and Coolidge roads and additionally Lake Lansing and Abbot roads. In addition, the department is responsible for a portion of Highways 127 and 496, where accidents are a prioritized multiple-officer job.
The consistent dumping of snow is only adding to the already-existing supply chain problems seen in stores everywhere. Garrett Moore, sales associate at Target in East Lansing, said that the store’s morning shipment truck arrived almost five hours late on Wednesday, due to road conditions. The driver then refused to unload the truck in the weather, and eventually left with the store’s shipment.
“We’ve already been told that the next truck isn’t coming,” said Moore. Due to the road conditions, shipments and bus schedules are planning in advance for untravelable weather. This does not help the shelves already scoured by East Lansing citizens who expect to not be able to leave their homes for a few days.
“People are expecting to cook from home, so we have seen more customers in the last two days than we have in the last week,” said Moore. Meat, bread, cheese, frozen food and other perishable items are down to slim choices, if anything. Target is only one of the many grocery stores in the area experiencing the same shortages, as East Lansing hunkers down to weather the storm, and stay off the roads.