1/8/15 – This was a day that I had been anticipating for about a week. The computer models indicated that there would be a rather potent clipper system swinging through the area in the afternoon/evening. This system would gain lake enhancement, and also produce lake effect snow into the overnight period. Pretty much anywhere along the west Michigan shoreline was going to get smacked, especially the further north you were. I targeted Muskegon, MI for this system. With a new camcorder added to my lineup just a day before the event, I was prepared to head out and document this system to it’s fullest. I drive an F-250, and it has 4WD, so the snow depth and road conditions didn’t concern me much. I was more worried about somebody else being careless and hitting me.
The National Weather Service had posted a Winter Storm Warning for the first 2 rows of counties inland of Lake Michigan. Road conditions were really good at the beginning from Greenville, to Cedar Springs, but as I continued my drive westward into Kent City, road conditions began to deteriorate greatly. I stopped for some footage of the snow along the way, from the very beginning of when the heavier stuff started to fall. I was able to leave my truck in 2WD for much of the journey, until I started going sideways at about 40mph. It was more like “slideways” than anything else. I corrected it quickly without further incident, locked it down in 4WD and continued on. By this time the roads were getting really bad. Snow covered and slippery with a layer of ice underneath. I was still able to maintain a speed of about 40-45mph until the whiteouts started. Then it was all downhill from there.
Between M-37 and all the way into Muskegon was where I found the worst of it, and the closer I got to the lake, the worse it was. Snow was accumulating quickly, blowing and drifting was becoming a very real concern, and cars were starting to become stranded. The wind really picked up, gusting over 55-60mph in some spots. As the afternoon went on, and I arrived in the city of Muskegon, I was surprised to see just how bad it was. The visibility and overall conditions were some of the top 5 worst that I’ve ever experienced. I documented vehicles stuck, whiteouts so intense that I couldn’t see past the hood of my truck, ground blizzards, strong wind gusts, blowing snow, and the snow accumulating fast. Conditions got absolutely insane out there! The roads were horrendous. As soon as the plows could clear them, they’d be drifted back over again within minutes. It was becoming hard to navigate. I passed by a place I was supposed to turn into 3 or 4 times because I just couldn’t see. All of the road signs were coated and caked with snow, and by this point, regular driving rules were out the window. It got to where it didn’t even matter if you were stopped on the middle of the road, or if you were just all driving in the middle in one straight line, or making turns you weren’t supposed to. I saw it all happen right before my eyes. There were no cops enforcing laws, they were helping people get unstuck. It was crazy, and had an almost apocalyptic feel! As day turned to night, the snow, wind, and cold raged on. Finally when the lake effect kicked in, there were breaks in the heaviest snows, and road crews and parking lot plowing teams were out in full force trying to clean up the snowfall. There were still whiteouts that would take place in the heavier snow bands though. It was one of the great experiences of my life! A large swath of western lower Michigan (including Muskegon) ended up with about 10 inches of new snow per reports, and there was spotty wind damage as well as a few pockets of higher accumulations. I noticed tree branches and a few power lines down while driving. Overall this storm goes down as one of the top 5 most intense snowstorms that I’ve ever documented! Below you will find a compilation of video clips from the event, plus a collection of photos right below that. I captured some intense scenes! Video from ground level with the stuck cars, to “tower cam” type shots from a high rise building about 7 stories high. Hope you enjoy, and feel free to share this article!