Detroit prepares for storm on eve of Super Bowl

Updated: February 5, 2006, 12:41 AM ET
Associated Press

DETROIT -- With snow falling and the temperature around freezing, snow removal crews were fighting a winter storm Saturday as thousands of fans headed downtown on the eve of the Super Bowl.

Pointing to a thick notebook outlining Super Bowl snow plans, Ron Brundidge, manager of the Detroit Department of Public Works Street Maintenance Division, said they are ready.

About 250 state and local plows will be on the roads in Detroit and throughout Wayne and Oakland counties, Brundidge said. Hundreds of city workers and volunteers were prepared to work through the night to clear sidewalks and curb cuts so fans could get to Ford Field -- a domed, climate-controlled stadium -- for the big game.

"We're not worried," he said. "One thing that puts us at ease is the fact that we've been preparing for this for so long."

City officials, the Super Bowl host committee and the NFL have been talking about snow removal for about a year, Brundidge said.

They'll have sufficient resources to handle the snowfall, including shovel-toting volunteer athletes from Wayne State University, he said.

The National Weather Service canceled a winter storm warning for southeast Michigan shortly before midnight Saturday. The agency initially called for up to 9 inches of snow to fall on the Detroit area by midday Sunday but scaled back its snow predictions several times Saturday; the storm warning cancellation said the city could expect just 2 to 5 inches.

The weather service, however, kept a blowing snow advisory in effect, predicting north winds gusting to 30 mph and causing blowing and drifting of snow.

The snow came after the third-warmest January on record in Detroit, with high temperatures in the 40s most of the month.

The warm temperatures melted some enthusiasm for the Motown Winter Blast, a downtown festival featuring a 200-foot snow slide, ice skating and dog sled races timed to coincide with Super Bowl festivities. Organizers had trouble building the slide with snow-making machines, and wheels had to be put on the dog sleds.

By Saturday night, however, the problem had become too much snow for the multiple parties taking place downtown.

Brundidge said more than 70 city workers will clear downtown sidewalks, in addition to contractors hired by the NFL for private property. The city will have 65 plows out, plus another 30 in town from Wayne County and the state, he said.

About 20 athletes from Wayne State's men's and women's swimming teams, and a few staffers, used shovels and push brooms to clear wet, sticky snow away from the entrance to the Fox Theatre, site of the NFL commissioner's party, said Jason Clark, associate athletic director.

"With so much foot traffic, there wasn't much accumulation downtown," Clark said after the party ended late Saturday. "Crews would come behind us and put down salt. I think we managed to get everybody home safe and sound."

Brundidge said the city has a plan to truck the snow out of downtown to several vacant lots so it's out of the way when people come downtown Sunday morning.

The NFL said people should arrive for the game early, in part because of the expected snowfall. Kickoff is at 6:30 p.m.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press