Ice covers Lake County, 100 years after the Great Ice Storm

Storm brings closures, dangerous driving conditions

A Lake County Road Commission truck lands in the ditch while treating the road on 40th near the Sid Woods farm during the recent 100 year ice storm.

A Lake County Road Commission truck lands in the ditch while treating the road on 40th near the Sid Woods farm during the recent 100 year ice storm.

courtesy photo

LAKE COUNTY — A sense of eeriness was felt by some when this part of Michigan was visited with an ice storm last Tuesday, exactly 100 years from the day of the Great Ice Storm of 2-22-1922.

Although not nearly as big in scale as the ice storm a century ago, the storm still caused significant issues on the roads, disrupting travel and causing cancellations of appointments, businesses and schools. 

Leroy Williams, director of the Lake County Road Commission, said this ice storm stood out from others in recent years. 

"This is one of the worst ones in 10 to 15 years or more," Williams said. "We had guys working basically 24 hours a day. On secondary roads we used scar fire blades, which cuts grooves to make traction on the ice, and we put sand on roads also." 

Lake County Clerk Patti Pacola was on her way to the courthouse for work when a Code Red was called to close down the courthouse because of the ice storm. 

"I was already out on my way to work when the Code Red came through at 7:10 a.m. closing the courthouse,” Paccola said. “(There were) many fishtails, a couple spins and even (sliding) backward once ... at 10 miles per hour. The slopes on Syers Corners were the worst — no control whatsoever.

"When I finally got to M-37, I wasn't sure if I should continue to work and attempt Wolf Lake Hill or turn around and take my chances on those sloped corners again," she continued. "Needless to say, I headed back home only to find the county sand truck sideways on Syers Corners. Again, it was a good day to stay home and stay safe. A big thank you to our county road commission for all that they do.” 

Patrick Maddox, emergency manager for Lake County, thought the weather was bad enough to call the Code Red. 

"We had someone coming in early for maintenance at the courthouse and said the roads were very bad," Maddox said. "I contacted the road commission, and they said the roads would be bad. I also checked with the weather. The decision to cancel the courthouse came down through the road commission, administrator Tobi Lake and central dispatch.

"I sent out the Code Red and a press release," he explained. "It was treacherous, and I think we made a good call closing. This is the first time we've closed the courthouse since I've been here as emergency manager.” 

Local historian Sid Woods said this was one of the worst ice storms he's seen as far as road conditions go, but said an ice storm in 1976, which took place around the same time in February, was worse, as people lost their power and trees were popping due to the weight of ice.

During the current storm, Woods said, he was getting some hay to feed his cattle on 40th (a hilly road) in Pinora Township, when he saw a county road grader working over the area before it slipped off the road. 

"I heard the truck going down the road and thought it would make it, but then I heard a bang, and didn’t hear the truck anymore,” Woods said. “Sure enough, the truck came over the hill near my niece’s and ended up in the ditch. Three trees holding the road grader there was the only thing keeping it from tipping over. I asked the driver if he was okay. He said in his few years of working there, this was the first time he slid off the road.

"This storm is a little reenactment of 100 years ago, but not as bad. The roads were pretty treacherous, though," Woods added.