Winter Storm

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As the first flakes touched down this afternoon in the chippewa valley, the first of more than 40 county highway trucks were out to clear a path for drivers Friday.

"We've got materials, we've got equipment, we've got reasonably adequate staff so we should be pretty well ready to go," Eau Claire County Highway Commissioner Thomas Walther said.

They'll stay ready throughout the night, despite a department that's been affected by budget cuts as well as the usual vacation requests and limited stamina we all face.

"After 12, 14, 16 hours of continuous work, people have to go home and get some sleep."

County employees assigned to the county highways and town roads will likely be on the road till-6 p.m. Friday, only to be back at it by 4 a.m.

Those who work on the state highways will salt, sand and plow through the night.

"The one concern I would have have is that if we have to go continuously for more than 24 hours, that we may not have enough people to man all the available vehicles."

If that's the case, Walther says it'll just take them a little longer to get the roads cleared.

Meanwhile, Eau Claire Police say to follow the odd-even parking tonight by putting your car on the even side of the street by midnight.

Firefighters and rescue workers will drive on slick streets in the case of an emergency.

For the last six years, the Eau Claire Fire Department hasn't had many instances where they need to call on their winter weather safety net:
city workers to dig an ambulance out of a snowbank.

"Generally we don't have a problem, our city crews are out there plowing the streets all the time...they do a very good job," said Battalion Chief Rick Merryfield.

However, a couple times a year, the department relies on a feature called the "On-Spot System," that's installed in their eight enigines, five ambulances, and heavy rescue truck.

"With just a push of the button in the cab area, will drop down some chains with will go on the back tires."

It's an on-the-fly system; they can use it at the drop of a hat.

"Once we're back on clear roads with a flip of the switch, lift them up out of the way."

The trucks and ambulances are also equipped with a traffic pre-emption system, a light that switches about three-fourths of the traffic lights at Eau Claire intersections to green, and hopefully prevent crashes with other cars.

Those lights will trigger senors on every light within the city limits here on 53, and on Clairemont Avenue.

Firefighters ask that those of you who have fire hydrants near your houses, take a minute and shovel around them once the storm is over.

It'll save them precious time during future emergencies.