Plowing is slow going in rural areas of Rock County
JANESVILLE Expect conditions to be bumpy for a few days on Rock County’s rural roads.
County plow crews were using salt sparingly Thursday night and Friday out of concern that salt could make conditions worse, said Ben Coopman, Rock County’s public works director.
The official snowfall was 4 inches at the Janesville Wastewater Treatment Facility, although high winds made drifts much higher.
The real problem was the rain and then snow/rain mix that fell early Thursday. That slushy mess was insulated under a layer of lighter snow.
As soon as the cold air hit, the slush froze hard, he said.
Crews on Friday were working to scrape roads as opposed to salting them, Coopman said.
Salt works best on sunny days when temperatures are in the low 20s or higher, he said. While it was sunny Friday, it was too cold and windy for salt to be effective, he said. Some ice might melt, but it would freeze again before the water evaporated, he said.
“It would actually exacerbate it,” Coopman said. “Instead of being just hard-packed and rutted, which is aggravating, roads would be terribly slippery.”
It could be a few days until crews think it’s warm enough for salt to be effective, Coopman said.
Late Friday afternoon, county crews were still working, and supervisors had not decided if they would work over the weekend, said Coopman, who thought conditions could improve enough Saturday to allow plows to make progress on rural roads.
In Janesville, city crews also had problems with blowing and drifting, but not as many as the county crews, said Peter Riggs, assistant operations director for the city.
“We feel the main and arterial roads are breaking up great,” Riggs said.
City crews were finished clearing residential streets early Friday morning, he said.
One trouble spot in the county was Highway 14 between Highway 140 and the Walworth County line. The wind whipped across the Rock Prairie and drove drifts across the road.
Plows couldn’t get through because of the number of vehicles stuck in drifts, Coopman said.
Plow drivers worked in tandem with tow trucks, Coopman said.
“Some wreckers would pull out a few cars, and we would bust in a little deeper,” he said. “Then the trucks would pull out a few more.”
One of the people stuck on Highway 14 east of Janesville was a pregnant woman trying to get to a hospital. She got stuck in a drift. A private ambulance on its way to West Allis happened to be stuck nearby, said Janesville Fire Department Shift Cmdr. Scott Morovits.
The woman walked to that ambulance and got inside.
That stretch of highway is in the Clinton fire and EMS response area, but Clinton could
not get through, Morovits said.
A Janesville ambulance was dispatched but got stopped in the middle of the road, he said.
A county plow truck cleared a path, and the Janesville ambulance took the woman to St. Mary’s Janesville Hospital, where she was treated and released without giving birth, hospital spokeswoman Joan Neeno said.
In Walworth County, high winds created similar challenges.
“It wasn’t so much the amount of snow we got, but it was blowing around so much,” said Kevin Brunner, director of central services for the county. “We’d plow, and then 50 minutes later, the road would be covered.”
Blowing and drifting are particular problems in the southwestern part of the county, including along Highway 14.
“There are a lot of rural stretches out there where it is really wide open,” Brunner said.
Plow drivers worked two 16-hour shifts with a break between for rest.
Drivers were scheduled to return to the roads late Friday or in the early morning today.
“The weather forecast indicates that the winds are going to die down,” Brunner said. “Our focus is going to be on getting stuff cleaned up for the holiday weekend.”
Don't forget your sidewalks
Homeowners, take advantage of the sunshine, said Peter Riggs, city of Janesville assistant operations director.
The heavy, wet pack that fell in the early part of Thursday’s storm will freeze quickly if property owners don’t clear it right away, Riggs said.
“If you don’t get that off your sidewalk, it’s going to turn to ice. It will be a real headache for you,” he said.
Riggs said people should keep in mind that sidewalks must be clear enough for people using wheelchairs to get through. That includes access ramps on corners, he said.