By GENE KEMMETER
Winter is here, and it brings out something familiar to most Wisconsin residents – driving in adverse snow and ice conditions.
The conditions emerged last month during two trips to the state’s largest city, both on scheduled flights.
Thursday December 23 started with temperatures hovering around freezing with snow and freezing rain expected north of Stevens Point later in the morning with a chance of freezing rain.
The weather seemed favorable as the vehicle was removed from the garage for the trip. Then it started fogging up, which turned into thin ice on the cold pavement and snow surfaces. By the time the trip began a few minutes later, the mist had changed to drizzle, frosting the windshield in a block to scrape the ice.
The trip continued with the defrost controls on full and traffic moved cautiously, moving at speeds below the limit, then maintaining speeds of 35 to 40 miles per hour (mph) on the highway as the drizzle turned to freezing rain.
Approaching Amherst, an interchange provided a safe place to leave the road and join a semi-tractor to scrape ice from the headlights and windshield wipers, as well as the edges of the windshield so that the wipers don’t try to block more ice there. Soon another vehicle joined the group, followed by a fourth before the ice was removed to allow travel again.
Road conditions began to improve as county highway trucks applied salt to the pavement and traffic began moving at 50 mph. By the time Highway 45 joined Highway 10, the roads were clear and traffic began moving at normal speeds.
Less than two weeks later, on January 5, another blizzard hit overnight, with weather forecasts indicating the snow would end shortly after noon, giving workers time to clear the roads and deal with them.
Strong winds continued throughout the day and swirled snow as daylight hours turned to darkness. Dropping temperatures prevented salting activities and gusty winds swirled snow around, limiting visibility and making roads slippery.
These road conditions left road traffic traveling safely between 50 and 60 mph on east-west roads and 30 and 40 mph on north-south roads, as conditions continued south beyond reach. forecast of the storm, in fact all the way to Milwaukee. urban area. The weather situation resulted in the minimum number of vehicles on the road.
The normal two-and-a-half-hour journey took over three hours, much like it did decades ago before the four- and six-lane roads were built along the route. Amazingly, during the entire trip, there were no vehicles in the ditch or any signs of accidents along the road, indicating that those traveling were careful and driving safely.
A trip to Minneapolis in slightly better conditions two decades ago led to a tally of more than 75 vehicles in the ditches, most of them in the Minnesota area, where slippery sections were a reality.
Driving in these snowy conditions is not recommended, but people often think the trip is extremely necessary, so they should follow safety recommendations, primarily by driving slowly, at a speed the conditions warrant, and allowing plenty of time to allow a break.
A number of vehicles passed slower vehicles on the previously described trips only to be passed by those they had passed earlier in a trip. Leading a convoy apparently made the trip a little too treacherous. The driver of a large delivery truck used the truck’s emergency flashers to alert other drivers to his slow-moving vehicle traveling at approximately 30 mph.
The rides were definitely white-knuckled affairs, but were split between two drivers which reduced stress and allowed for breaks.
The second trip also offered a surprise to corny mileage aficionados. Newer vehicles automatically calculate miles per gallon of gasoline when driving, and data showed the vehicle averaged 30.8 miles per gallon without the use of cruise control. Clearly, white-knuckle driving didn’t lead to pressing the accelerator pedal.