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Winter weather sends cars into ditches

Snow falls on Superior vehicles, streets and homes Friday during the area’s first winter storm of the season. The weather caused damage along Lake Superior and sent cars into ditches in Douglas County. Jed Carlson/jcarlson@superiortelegram.com

Gov. Scott Walker declared Nov. 6-10 as Wisconsin’s Winter Awareness Week, but Mother Nature didn’t get the memo.

The Northland weathered its first snowstorm of the season Friday. Wind, waves and precipitation wreaked havoc on the area, flooding Highway 2 in Ashland, ripping up sections of Duluth’s Lakewalk, damaging road access to the mouth of the Brule River and impacting drivers.

Superior Parks, Recreation and Forestry Director Linda Cadotte said Barker’s Island suffered damage from the storm.

“There was a fair amount of riprap damage to the Festival Park area, tree debris, the Meteor suffered some flooding; the marina itself had a bit of damage,” she said.

The Arrowhead Pier and Loons Foot docks also suffered some damage, according to Cadotte.  A number of trees blew down in the city, as well.

“But all in all, seems there’s always a community that gets hit harder, and for that I remain grateful for the minimal damage we did suffer by comparison,” Cadotte said.

Significant damage was reported at the AMI marina on Connors Point.

“We pretty much lost most of our marina,” said Chad Scott, president of AMI Consulting Engineers. “It’s a mess. I’m still cleaning up this week.”

High waves washed out the shoreline between the docks and building, twisted off the main pier and flung it into the harbor. The docks were hit particularly hard and the marina is still missing dock pieces, but only work boats were tied up when the storm hit.

Scott estimated the storm caused about $100,000 in damage.

The marina is insured. Scott expected it will be up and running again come spring. The important thing, he said, is no one got hurt.

The Douglas County Sheriff’s Department received 14 reports of cars in the ditch Friday during the storm.

Reports began coming in at 8:13 a.m. and ended at about 10:13 p.m. The towns of Hawthorne and Amnicon saw the most cars land in the ditch at five each. Two cars were reported in the ditch in the town of Summit and one car each in the towns of Parkland and Superior.

The slipperiest spots, according to the reports, were the intersections of U.S. Highway 53 and County Highway B in Hawthorne and the Highway 53, and Bayfield Road in Amnicon. Three cars were reported in the ditch at each of those locations.

In the past five years, Wisconsin has averaged 18,600 motor vehicle crashes during the winter months, according to Ready Wisconsin. Many are caused by “driving too fast for current conditions.” Ready Wisconsin encourages motorists to be gentle with both the accelerator and brake, not to use cruise control in wintery conditions and not to be overconfident in a four-wheel-drive vehicle.

Always wear your safety belt.

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation encourages drivers to plan ahead, selecting both primary and alternate routes. Check weather information before you begin, drive carefully and defensively, and watch for ice patches on bridges and overpasses.

If a storm begins to be too much to handle, seek refuge immediately, and take note of exit numbers and mileposts or crossroads in case you end up in a ditch and need to summon a tow truck or law enforcement.

Ready Wisconsin promotes having an emergency supply kit in your vehicle that includes food, water and blankets. Stay with your car if it becomes disabled, running the engine and heater for short intervals and cracking the window to avoid carbon monoxide buildup.

For more winter safety tips, visit ReadyWisconsin.wi.gov.

Heating moratorium

The storm’s wintery weather has also highlighted the importance of staying warm.

According to Wisconsin law, heat-providing utility service cannot be disconnected during the state’s heating moratorium period, which begins Wednesday and runs through April 15.

The Douglas County Department of Health and Human services is taking applications for the 2018 Wisconsin Home Energy Assistance Program, which provides a one-time payment to eligible renters and homeowners during the heating season. The funding pays a portion of the heating costs, regardless of whether the resident uses wood, wood pellets, propane, natural gas, electricity or fuel oil to heat their home.

For more information and an application, visit www.homeenergyplus.wi.gov, call (715) 395-1651 or pick up an application at the Health and Human Services Office, 1316 N. 14th St., Suite 400,  Superior.

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