Area crews ready for season's first storm
ELKHORN Living in Wisconsin means being no stranger to winter driving. But the Rock County Sheriff's Office believes it's necessary to remind motorists that extra caution is needed when roads are snow-covered and slippery.
"In my 18 years in law enforcement, I have noticed that the largest number of traffic accidents per snowstorm occur in the first and second ones of the season," said Rock County Capt. Jude Maurer. "We've all driven on winter roads, but we need to re-learn how to drive the first time roads are snow-covered and icy roads."
Southern Wisconsin motorists will be faced with the season's first storm, but in what form is not clear.
"The forecast has changed six times in the last 24 hours," said John Whitcomb, Janesville director of city operations. "The bottom line is we are ready for whatever comes."
Whitcomb said city equipment has been ready since early November.
"We will wait and see," he said. "Right now it looks like we may have a wet snow possibly mixed with rain and then colder temperatures. That might cause a problem for some of the side streets."
City crews are not responsible for Interstate roads.
"Our priorities are arterial and collector streets," Whitcomb said. "Then it's the rest of our streets as soon as possible."
Milton Avenue, Milwaukee Street and Wright Road are examples of arterial streets. Collector streets such as Randall Avenue bring traffic out of city neighborhoods.
Meteorologist Sarah Marquardt at the National Weather Service office in Sullivan said Tuesday the winter storm coming out of a low-pressure area in Texas and Oklahoma should hit the Midwest about 6 a.m. Thursday.
"Snowfall in the area of Rock and Walworth counties should be about six inches," she said.
"In addition to the snow, however, that area may see winds gusting to 30-35 mph, blowing and drifting conditions, and low visibility."
Blowing and drifting are major concerns for county highway crews.
"Our number one priority is Interstate 39/90 and Interstate 43," said Rock County Director of Public Works Ben Coopman. "We provide 24-hour service on the interstates when needed, and that's often if we get blowing and drifting."
County crews are also responsible for state and county roads and town roads in 13 of the county's 20 towns.
"We try to get to those roads by 4 a.m. and finish up by 6 p.m. depending on what we have," Coopman said. "Our equipment is ready to go."
Walworth County crews are ready, and their equipment, including 35 snow plowing trucks have been ready for weeks, said Kevin Brunner, Walworth County director of central services.
"We've had something like 280 days with no snow, so there was some maintenance involved, but everything now is ready to go," he said.
In Janesville, it has been 293 days without snow. The last snowfall of an inch or more was March 2.
Winter driving tips
Rock County Sheriff Robert Spoden offered these safe winter storm driving tips:
-- Plan your travel, selecting both primary and alternate routes.
-- Let someone know your travel route and if you have any planned stops along the way.
-- Always take your cellphone and a cellphone charger in case you get stranded.
-- Be sure to fill up your car with gasoline. If your car should become disabled, stay with the vehicle, running your engine and heater for short intervals. Be sure to "crack" a window in the vehicle to avoid carbon monoxide build-up.
-- Carry emergency supplies such as a flashlight, flares, jumper cables, a shovel, tow-strap, blankets, warm clothing and appropriate footwear.
-- Try not to travel alone—two or three people are preferable.
-- Drive carefully and defensively. Watch for ice patches on bridges and overpasses.
-- Take note of your odometer and coordinate it with exit numbers, mileposts, or crossroads so if you are in a crash or slide off the road you'll better be able to identify where you are and summon law enforcement officers, rescue workers, or tow truck operators more quickly to your location.
-- If driving conditions become too much for you to handle, seek shelter immediately.
-- Call ahead to your destination just as you are leaving. If traveling with another person have that person contact someone at your destination for updates.
-- Let someone at your destination know the license number of your vehicle, what route you'll be traveling, and give a realistic estimate of your travel time.
-- If you have friends or family at your place of origin, you should call when you arrive to let them know you have arrived safely.
-- Driving in fog, rain, and snow can cause you to become tired. If you need to stop because of tiredness be sure to call your destination to let someone know there will be a delay in your arrival.