Janesville68.2°

Storm puts region on ice

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Stacy Vogel
December 11, 2007
— The mail system isn’t the only service that perseveres through rain, sleet or snow.

As schools, day cares, businesses and civic clubs shut down around it, the Janesville Transit System still was up and running this morning, said Dave Mumma, city transit director.


“As of this point, if it keeps doing what it’s doing, we will continue to be out there,” he said at 8 a.m. “We plan on being out there for a full operating day until 10:15 tonight.”


The transit system didn’t see the “slick-as-glass” conditions it feared, Mumma said.


The Beloit Transit System and the Beloit-Janesville Express still were running this morning, as well, he said.


Still, the mixture of snow, sleet and ice this morning was enough to close all Rock County public schools and several districts in Walworth and Green counties. Cancellations also affect tonight’s after-school activities related to the closed schools and after-school programs at the YMCA and YWCA.


UW-Whitewater and UW-Rock County canceled classes. Waste Management garbage and recycling pickup was delayed a day in Rock, Green and Walworth counties.


For the latest closings and cancellations, visit www.wclo.com/closings.

Forecasters expected the freezing rain to continue in Rock County until 2 or 3 p.m., when it’s supposed to change to light snow, said Bob McMahon with the National Weather Service in Sullivan. Flurries should last until about 6 p.m., he said.


The forecast is similar for Walworth County, delayed about an hour, he said.


Today seemed to be the last chance this week for serious snowfall, McMahon said.


He predicted a chance for light snow Wednesday night into Thursday and early next week.


McMahon recommended people stay off the roads today unless absolutely necessary, although salting has improved conditions on treated roads, he said.


“With freezing rain, you can get into bad road conditions very quickly,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if you have four-wheel drive or snow tires, ice can be difficult to drive on.”


That’s exactly why the transit system is trying to stay running, Mumma said.


“In a lot of cases in days like today, we’re people’s backup,” he said. “If they don’t want to get out there and drive themselves, they like to know we’re still out there.


“It’s important for us to continue providing this service even if conditions aren’t ideal.”


Dealing with ice storm

You’ve heard the caution so many times that you might not listen: Unless you absolutely must drive, stay off the roads.


That’s the word again today, and the consequences of not listening could be severe.


“If you get stranded, chances are you’re going to wait a while,” said Pam Moen, AAA Wisconsin spokeswoman. “Emergency vehicles can’t travel any better than you can.”


In today’s world, people think they must be on the go all the time. Moen wants drivers to think twice when the weather is as bad as it is today.


If drivers must venture out, Moen suggests they have working cell phones, blankets and extra clothing in the car.


Don’t use cruise

Rock County Public Works Director Ben Coopman said drivers need to turn off the cruise control and use their feet in snowstorms.


The department has asked around and found that many drivers who slide off the road had the cruise on, he said.


The problem is that when the car gets to an icy bridge or even a patch of black ice, the cruise responds automatically to the change.


The car’s electronic sensors are faster than any person’s eyes and hands, Coopman said.


“Before any human can react, the car’s lost control and going into a ditch,” he said. “It’s almost physiologically impossible to react.”


Don’t hit the brakes

“During the winter months, it’s important for everyone to monitor the weather forecasts that may affect their driving plans,” said AAA Wisconsin Regional President Tom Frymark.


-- Anticipate dangers, including ice on bridges, hidden lane markings, stalled cars and poor visibility and adjust your speed. Ease off the accelerator and don’t lock up the brakes.


-- For cars without anti-lock brakes, use “squeeze” or “threshold” braking by applying the brakes just short of lockup, then easing up slightly.


-- For vehicles with anti-lock brakes, continuous, firm braking is necessary.


-- If you are out on the roads, slow down and make sure you allow plenty of reaction time between your vehicle and the one in front of you, Moen said. “You just can’t stop in the same distance as you can when the pavement’s dry.”


-- Keep snow and ice off your vehicle so your lights work. Then you can see and be seen, Moen said.


Clearing the driveway

Dealing with this sleet/slush/ice/rain mixture is a combination of timing and personal choice.


Mandy Bonneville, city of Janesville assistant operations director, warns homeowners not to shovel too soon.


“The thing to watch out for with these kids of storms is the freezing rain aspect,” Bonneville said. “Don’t clear your pavements until the storm is over.”


Putting salt down on bare pavement can prevent glare ice, Bonneville said.


Ben Coopman, Rock County public works director, warns homeowners the salt will melt the ice into slush, which could freeze again.


The county waits until precipitation stops before putting salt down, he said.


Wally Prins, general manager of Ace Hardware, said to be safe, mix sand with the salt. That way if things get slushy, you’ve got backup.


“That’s what we use,” Prins said. “Sand is probably the quickest way to be safe getting in and out of your car.”


—Ann Marie Ames

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