Winter arrives!

Becky Vargo • Jul 21, 2015 at 12:06 PM

“I felt like I was in the ‘Wizard of Oz,’" said Ferrysburg resident Laurel Herrmann.

As the front continued its way through the area on Monday, temperatures fell into the lower teens. It also dropped a powdery snow that made driving chaotic, especially on I-96.

At least 30 vehicles were involved in a series of crashes and slide-offs on I-96 between Coopersville and Marne around 9 a.m. Monday. No injuries were reported, but a Fed-X semitrailer truck jack-knifed and several cars slid off the road. Some of the cars collided and some went through a fence, emergency crews reported.

A section of eastbound I-96 at 48th Avenue was closed until about 11:30 a.m. while the vehicles were removed from the scene.

Tri-Cities-area resident Jason LeBrasseur said he was returning from Grand Rapids on Monday morning and the freeway was "a solid sheet of black ice" for most of the way.

"Many cars were still traveling 70 mph," he said. "I later saw three of the cars that passed me in a ditch a few miles up the road."

The action was not confined to the freeway. Emergency personnel were scrambling later in the afternoon as drivers battled whiteout conditions and lost control of their vehicles all over the area.

At 2:48 p.m., crews were called to M-45 east of 144th Avenue in Robinson Township after a car ran off the road and smashed into a tree. One woman was hurt in that crash.

Two minutes later, a car crashed into a tree off Ferris Street, east of U.S. 31 in Grand Haven Township. Nobody was injured in that crash.

At 3:30 p.m., traffic was backed up on Mercury Drive in Grand Haven Township after a crash on the Pottawattomie Bridge. Two women were hurt in that crash.

Erika Blessman of Grand Haven was driving a Chevrolet Trailblazer north on Mercury when she lost control of her SUV and spun into the path of another vehicle. Blessman, 18, suffered non-life-threatening injuries and was taken by ambulance to an area hospital, police said.

The driver of the other vehicle — Lori Hager, 42, of Grand Haven — sought her own treatment for minor injuries.

In the Robinson Township crash, police said Connie Huizenga, 44, was driving a little too fast for conditions when the Wyoming woman's car hit the rear of another vehicle that had slowed for a whiteout. Huizenga’s car then slid off M-45 and slammed into a tree.

Huizenga was taken to an area hospital by ambulance with minor injuries.

The vehicle she hit was driven by Mark Noffsinger, 51, of Grand Haven. He was not injured, police said.

National Weather Service meteorologist Mark Sekelsky said the blowing snow and cold air is expected to continue through tonight, with temperatures starting to rise into the teens on Wednesday.

Winds have been in the 10-20 mph range, with gusts up to 30 mph. The wind will ease a bit today, Sekelsky said.

The low temperatures make it difficult to get the ice off the roads, he noted.

Sekelsky said Lakeshore areas received between 2 and 5 inches of snow through the day Monday. Another 1-4 inches was expected overnight, and the same amount is possible today.

“The long-range forecast keeps it cold enough to snow into the weekend, then it’s kind of marginal,” Sekelsky said. "It will cool back down in the middle of next week."

Muskegon's snowfall total for the season through 1 p.m. Monday was 13.3 inches. Last year at this time, 37.7 inches had fallen.

The area's normal snowfall total for this time of year is 54 inches. The record in Muskegon for the season is 173.9 inches of snow set in the winter of 1981-82.

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