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Snowstorm Snarls Driving, Air Traffic

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WWJ Photo/Mike Campbell

WWJ Photo/Mike Campbell

SOUTHFIELD (WWJ/AP) - Southeastern Michigan residents are making the best of the region’s first big snowstorm of the season, which peaked during the evening rush hour, causing widespread traffic accidents while interrupting hundreds of flights at the state’s largest airport.

The fringe of a winter storm centered farther south pushed into populous metropolitan Detroit on Wednesday afternoon. Snowfalls were already nearing the 7 inches forecast by Wednesday night, with 6.5 inches near Ann Arbor.

A number of cities have declared snow emergencies, so snow plows can do their jobs on all streets. Anyone who doesn’t move their vehicles off city streets could be ticketed.

Snow emergencies have been issued in: Pontiac, Roseville, Sterling Heights, Livonia, Trenton, Ferndale, Garden City, Beverly Hills, Birmingham, Bloomfield Township, Clawson, Dearborn, Dundee, Eastpointe, Flat Rock, Hazel Park, Huntington Woods, Inkster, Madison Heights, Oak Park, Rockwood, Romulus, Royal Oak and St. Clair.

The Brighton area and Eastpointe had 6 inches, Lake Orion and Troy 5.5 inches, and Riverview 5.2 inches by 8:30 p.m., the National Weather Service said. It said the snow would taper off Thursday.

At Detroit Metropolitan Airport, at least 100 flights were cancelled or rerouted and at least 240 others were delayed by an hour or more Wednesday. (Check your flight status here.)

Melissa Cataldi, 46, of Union Lake, openly cursed the winter storm as she stood pumping gas at a service station in Oakland County’s Commerce Township, snow swirling around her partially covered face.

“I’m not a skier. I’m not a skater. And I’m definitely not an Eskimo,” said the bookkeeper whose typical daily work commute is 45 minutes, but was stretched to nearly three hours Wednesday evening because of slippery roads, slow-moving traffic and multiple expressway spin-outs. “At this point, I just want to get home to my family and thaw out. I know it’s winter, but this is no blizzard. I could have walked home quicker.”

Brian DeMars, 26, of Farmington Hills, welcomed the winter blast. The landscaper whose family of four relies on snow removal for half of its wintertime income said the storm allowed him to make extra money before the Christmas spending bills come due.

“It’s like that Christmas song … `On the second day of Christmas, Mother Nature gave to me, a winter storm and OT …”‘

Rebecca Samuelson, 32, said she abandoned her husband at home Wednesday evening, where the power was out because of a downed power line. She escaped their darkened West Bloomfield home in favor of the warm confines of a nearby fitness club.

“While he’s home hooking up the generator and getting the driveway cleared, I decided the best thing for me to do is come to gym and get a good workout,” she said. “At least it’s warm here. There’s no point in both of us freezing.”

Before the storm hit, rock salt and ice scrapers were flying off store shelves at an Aco Hardware store in Southfield as people delayed post-Christmas to prepare for the winter weather.

“It’s been quite a blast – tons of customers,” said assistant manager Chris Mokrzycki, 23. “We’ve already sold a pallet of ice melter. This is the first time we’re finally seeing the snow supplies flying off the shelves.”

At a Dunkin’ Donuts in nearby Oak Park, retiree Ernie Marable cradled a hot drink after gassing up his snow blower.

Marable, 65, said he didn’t put much stock in the snowfall forecasts and said he was preparing for the worst.

“When they say four to eight inches, it could be two feet,” he said. “I didn’t even hear the amount of inches. I just heard `snowstorm,”‘ he said.

Here’s the local forecast from the CBS Detroit Weather Team:

Thursday – Overcast with a chance of snow and rain showers. Winds from the NNW at 15 to 20 mph. Chance of snow 50%. High of 32F, low of 19F with a windchill as low as 10F.

Friday – Overcast with a chance of snow and rain showers in the afternoon. Winds less than 5 mph. Chance of snow 30%. High of 28F, low of 25F.

Saturday - Overcast in the morning, then mostly cloudy. Fog early. Winds from the NNW at 5 to 15 mph. High of 30F, low of 10F with a windchill as low as 5F.

Know before you go: Keep it tuned to WWJ Newsradio 950 for traffic and weather, every 10 minutes on the 8s.

Check the CBS Detroit weather page for the extended forecast and up-to-the-minute information.

Sign up for severe weather text alerts: Text STORM to 95001
For daily weather forecast text alerts: Text FORECAST to 95001

(View photos here taken by WWJ Newsradio 950′s Mike Campbell.)

TM and © Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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