495k without power with trees and lines down

A rare winter snowstorm left thousands of Michiganders in the dark, as heavy ice tore down tree limbs and power lines across the state.

As of Wednesday night at 11:30 p.m., DTE’s power outage map shows more than 314,533 customers currently without power. While Consumers Energy’s outage map shows more than 180,870 customers reported power outages.

In total, more than 495,403 customers across the state are experiencing power outages. High winds are expected to continue on Thursday, which could significantly extend the power outage.

“DTE’s storm response team, including 1,500 line workers and hundreds of wire guard teams, has been activated and is ready to respond to power outages caused by this storm,” a news release said. “DTE has also secured more than 400 out-of-state crews who have arrived in Michigan and are ready to assist with restoration efforts.”

Consumers Energy has 85 crews in the field trying to restore power, according to the map.

An ice storm warning remains in effect until 4 a.m. Thursday for Oakland, Macomb, Washtenaw, Livingston, St. Clair, Monroe, Lenawee, Allegan, Barrie, Eaton, Ingham, Calhoun, Jackson, Van Buren and Kalamazoo until 4 a.m. Thursday. Wayne County is under a winter weather advisory, according to the National Weather Service in White Lake.

Weather forecasters added that it’s a good idea to pack an emergency kit in your car and charge your electronic devices just in case.

Michigan weather radar

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more:23 million Americans are under winter storm warnings as blizzards blow across the Midwest and West

Ice accumulation and forecast for Thursday

According to the NWS White Lake office, as of 6 p.m. Wednesday, the official ice accumulations are:

  • Wayne County: 0.15 inch
  • Washtenaw County: 0.2 inch
  • Oakland County: 0.25 inches

The freezing rain “will kick in late tonight,” NWS White Lake meteorologist Trent Fry said. “For tomorrow, it looks like things will still be pretty smooth in the morning, but we’ll eventually warm up to the 40s. … Around 2 or 3 p.m.”

Winds will reach 40 mph in the late afternoon into the evening in the southeastern Michigan area, he said.

“It looks very suspicious”

Rain, ice, sleet and snow — “a little bit of everything” — are expected Wednesday, as winter storms are expected to sweep from the West to the East Coast, said Dave Gurney, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. “It seems very suspicious. Take it easy on your morning commute.”

Midwest cities are preparing

Reason for warnings and advisories: A massive winter storm is blowing across the country with dangerous conditions touching down in the Far East, an ice storm is hitting several states in the Midwest and snow and sleet are arriving in the Northeast.

Residents of the Western and Plains states have faced severe winter weather for several days already this week. On Tuesday, in anticipation of the storm, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz issued an emergency order to activate the National Guard and urged residents to prepare for what could be a record-breaking snowstorm.

more:Ice can be deadly at this time of year: what to do if you fall in it?

AAA ready for calls

The AAA Auto Club said it is preparing for winter weather conditions throughout Michigan, and expects to receive a number of roadside service calls to pull vehicles out of ditches, dispose of flat batteries, and inflate flat tires.

“We urge motorists to follow the advice of local authorities and stay home if possible,” AAA spokeswoman Adrienne Woodland said. “If you must get on the road, make sure you have at least half a tank of fuel, reduce your speed significantly and stay off closed roads.”

What to do if you get stuck

In the event of a problem on the road, the Automobile Club urges motorists to:

  • Stay in the car. Your vehicle can provide shelter, allowing emergency responders to better determine your location.
  • Do not leave the vehicle running. If a long traffic jam occurs, turn off the engine for a while, then turn it on again.
  • Keep the exhaust pipe free of ice. If blocked, deadly carbon monoxide can back up into the vehicle.
  • Avoid driving on the shoulders or medians of highways. It must remain clear to first responders.
  • Cold weather can affect batteries. In electric cars, it can shorten the distance they can travel.

Road safety

If you must be on the road, tips include:

  • Check the weather before setting off, and be prepared to change plans if necessary.
  • Drive at a safe speed. Keep in mind that vision and ability to stop may be diminished.
  • IIncrease tracking distances (usually three to four seconds) to eight to 10 seconds.
  • Leave enough room for maintenance vehicles and plows, staying at least 200 feet apart.
  • Watch for icy surfaces on bridges and intersections, even if the rest of the road appears to be in good condition.
  • Avoid braking on ice. If you are approaching a patch of ice, brake as you approach.

Michigan traffic updates

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USA Today and Free Press writer Nour Rahal contributed for this report.

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