Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


City copes with blustery weather

The year's first heavy snowfall required tireless work from the city and university crews to clear streets and ensure Madison residents' safety.

Crews began plowing and cleaning the streets as early as 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, as nearly 10 inches of snow blanketed the city during the night and into Thursday afternoon.

"We've been spoiled this winter by not having many snowfalls, so something like this catches [people] by surprise," University of Wisconsin Physical Plant Director John Harrod said. "I hate to remind people that this is Wisconsin."


The snow halted activity across the city of Madison, as it cancelled all committee and commission meetings, and the UW Credit Union closed some of its branches.

In addition, Madison Metro buses ran 20 minutes late and both West Towne and East Towne malls closed.

To top it off, Madison police officers spent a portion of the day corralling several horses that ran free in the streets downtown.

"It was reported that six to eight horses were running around the Campus Drive and University Avenue area," MPD Public Informations Officer Mike Hanson said.

Madison police later confirmed the incident was not major, as officers rescued the UW-owned horses and brought them safely back to their pen.

Madison streets division spokesman George Dreckmann said the city has a priority system in which the city plows certain streets immediately with salt trucks to keep traffic flowing.

"Those are streets we work to keep on all the time," he said. "They're mostly main traffic arteries, bus routes, hospitals and routes to and from schools."

But when snowfalls accumulate more than three inches, the city will also plow residential streets, which Dreckmann said the city began doing last night at midnight.

Low overnight temperatures and high winds, however, can slow the plowing process.

"Salt isn't effective when it gets below 12 to 15 degrees," Dreckmann added. "And a lot of wind blowing makes it very hard to keep the streets open."

Keeping streets clear is a priority for the Madison Police Department, which is expectedly busy during a heavy snowfall.

If police are inundated with work, Hanson said, a decision is made to operate under emergency conditions.

"At a certain point — when things become hectic — we take priority calls and respond only to those calls," he added. "It's an educated decision by the officer in charge who notices the weather, the number of calls and resources available."

Yesterday, Hanson said police were called to approximately 20 car accidents by early afternoon, and because that number reflects only priority calls, the number may not indicate the total number of accidents.

While the city takes care of plowing main traffic roads, the university is responsible for sidewalks and streets in the campus area.

The UW Physical Plant takes care to keep these areas clean for students braving the cold temperatures.

According to Harrod, when a snowstorm hits, workers begin plowing campus sidewalks and streets around midnight and work several hours before daylight to clear the passageways.

The goal is to have clear pathways by 7:30 a.m., before the first classes start, but the time can differ, depending on the snowfall.

"Snows started again heavily around 8:30 [a.m.] and we had our crews out working, trying to keep up," Harrod said. "It was a real challenge during the day, particularly as the pedestrian traffic increased."

Dreckmann said that in a typical winter, the city averages about 35 priority street plows in one season, and, according to Harrod, the university averages about two to three plows each winter month.

But unusually warm winter weather this year has kept the plowing equipment at bay — until yesterday.

"We're just hoping we can do a good job," Harrod said. "It's gone as well as it can, given the volume of the snow we've got, and in terms of this storm, we've done fairly well."

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