A Norton Shores police car and a tow truck were part of the first pileup late Wednesday morning on northbound U.S. 31 at the I-96/Seaway Drive interchange in Fruitport Township.
Two semi-trucks and about 14 cars were involved in another pileup early Wednesday afternoon on southbound U.S. 31.
See more photos of the Wild Wednesday on the roads: click here!
Norton Shores Police Chief Dan Shaw said about 11 people were injured in the chain-reaction crashed that closed the highway's southbound lanes, from I-96 to Laketon Avenue, for several hours in the afternoon. He did not know the extent of their injuries. The roadway reopened just before 5 p.m.
Shaw said a Norton Shores police officer was assisting Fruitport Township police with a crash involving about four cars on northbound U.S. 31 late Wednesday morning when another vehicle went out of control and hit his patrol vehicle. The Norton Shores officer had the driver of one of the crashed cars inside his vehicle at the time.
“The officer was not injured,” Shaw said. “The passenger in the back seat had back pain.”
An ambulance took the man to Mercy Hospital in Muskegon.
“Another car behind him hit a tow truck and the tow truck driver,” Shaw said.
The tow truck driver suffered minor injuries. Shaw said he did not know if that driver was taken to a hospital.
Charlotte Gabriel and her son, Toby, were on the Broadway Street overpass, taking pictures of the last vehicle being removed from the pile-up scene.
“I’ve been listening to sirens all day,” said Charlotte, who lives nearby.
Police along the Lakeshore responded to crashes and slide-offs all over the area once heavy snow started falling at about mid-morning.
“It’s been non-stop, but it’s all been in the Norton Shores area,” Sgt. Chris Stevens of the Muskegon County Sheriff’s Department said late Wednesday. “They and Fruitport have been getting hammered since this morning."
Stevens said the Sheriff’s Department did not have many crashes to handle.
“The north part of the county has been pretty quiet,” he said.
Ottawa County Sheriff’s deputies handled 54 crashes and slide-offs between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. Wednesday. Sgt. Steve Austin said the incidents were widespread throughout the county, with only one of them involving injuries.
No one was injured in a multi-car pileup early Wednesday afternoon on the M-104 bridge in Spring Lake. Tammy Spieles said she was on her way to work when her car slid sideways as she started down the hill into Ferrysburg. Her car spun 180 degrees and stopped when it hit the guardrail.
Spieles watched as a series of vehicles started crashing in the other lane behind her.
“I wasn’t even done with 911 before the other people started piling up,” she said.
After the crash, Spring Lake/Ferrysburg police made sure the occupants of the cars were OK before sending them off the roadway to William Ferry Park at the bottom of the hill.
Dillon Groover, Jordan Smant and Eric Klingel gave Spieles’ car a push so she could get turned around.
Klingel said they came over the bridge, saw a couple of vehicles stopped in front of them, but they couldn’t stop.
“It was a sheet of ice,” he said. “Then we saw the taxi coming. We said, ‘OK guys, brace for impact.’”
Lakeshore motorists were having trouble because the snow came down hard and fast, creating whiteout conditions and very slippery roads.
National Weather Service meteorologist Brandon Hoving said Grand Haven received 10 inches of snow by 5 p.m. Wednesday, with a few more inches possible overnight. Fruitport got 11 inches and Norton Shores saw about 8 inches fall by 5 p.m.
Ottawa County is under a winter storm warning until 1 p.m. today.
Hoving said less than an inch of snow was recorded at the National Weather Service office at Ford International Airport as of 5 p.m. Wednesday.
“Anyone heading west from Grand Rapids to the Lakeshore is in for a rude awakening,” Hoving said Wednesday.
Snow showers were expected to continue today, with the heaviest stuff falling south of Holland, Hoving said.
“We’re not going to get out of this system anytime soon,” he said. “Friday night is going to be a bit nasty, with winds picking up and blowing snow. The snow will be moving out by later Saturday morning, but another system is moving in Sunday with an expected 3-6 inches of snow.”