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Staying safe on roads during winter weather

Published: Feb. 3, 2021 at 8:55 PM CST
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - Snow and subzero temperatures are on the way and frigid air means traditional methods of keeping the roads clear, such as salt, will be less effective.

“People just need to be aware the driving conditions are going to be changing over the next couple of days,” says City of Eau Claire Street and Fleet Maintenance Manager Steven Thompson.

Thompson says his team is already pretreating roads ahead of the expected snow storm.

“The pretreating helps, but by the length of this storm, the temperatures start to drop and that pretreating will pretty much have been diluted and not effective,” he says.

When it comes to the city’s main roads, Thompson says the next thing the city uses is salt.

“It’s just those 87 miles of streets, our main arterials, that we use salt on,” he says. “We don’t use salt on any other street.”

But salt has its limitations.

“Salt loses its effectiveness at probably about 10 degrees, it really slows down and by 5 degrees it’s really not working,” Thompson says.

Salt is also less effective on the highways and can be more dangerous with people traveling at higher speeds, according to Sergeant Dean Haigh with the Wisconsin State Patrol.

“The biggest difference between driving out on the highway and in the city is obviously the speeds are higher so you have to make sure you give yourself more following distance,” Haigh says.

Sergeant Haigh says driving conditions can go from bad to worse quickly.

“The road might look good to you and it might be good, but conditions can change pretty abruptly especially one thing to watch out for is black ice on bridge decks,” he says.

When in doubt, he says it is always best to err on the side of caution.

“Common sense, patience, focus on your driving not your cell phones, put those down and watch your speeds.”

Patience is also key, as city and county plow truck drivers work to get roads cleared.

Thompson says if certain areas of main roads get too slick, plow drivers can throw sand down, which will help with traction.

State Patrol says the best thing to do is stay off the roads all together if you can.

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