WHITE LAKE TWP. (WWJ) – Police say a 72-year-old man was found frozen to death in the driveway of his home days after a major winter storm dumped about a foot of snow on metro Detroit.
The body of Alton Barett was found Tuesday outside of his home on Oxbow Lake Road in White Lake Township. Officials say Barett was found with a shovel in his hand next to his tractor, which may have stalled out or gotten stuck in the snow.
It wasn’t immediately clear if Barett’s death was caused by the extreme weather conditions or natural causes. Temperatures in metro Detroit over the last few days have been hovering around zero, with wind chills making it actually feel much, much colder.
One theory is that Barett might have suffered a heart attack while shoveling snow, but authorities are awaiting autopsy results to confirm an exact cause of death.
When contacted for comment, officials at the morgue said autopsy results would be slightly delayed because Barett’s body was too frozen to begin their assessment.
Officials say Barett was last heard from on January 4, which means his body could have been out in the freezing cold for as many as three days.
Barett’s death is likely the eighth fatality in Michigan during the snowstorm and deep freeze that followed, which were caused by a so-called polar vortex — a counterclockwise-rotating pool of cold, dense air.
Authorities say three people were killed in traffic crashes related to the storm, in Otsego, Huron and Barry counties. Four other people — in Flint, Detroit, Milford and Pontiac — collapsed and died while shoveling snow.
The metro Detroit area experienced record-low temperatures earlier this week, with wind chills that made it feel as though it were 30 to 40 degrees below zero in places. Some cities received over a foot of snow.
Stay with WWJ Newsradio 950 and CBSDetroit.com as this story develops.