A fire truck offered relief to a semitrailer driver hung up on a snowbank around 3 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 3, on the southeast corner of Belknap Street and Tower Avenue.

Using a winch, the firefighter on the scene manage to pull the semi free to restore travel at the busy intersection in Superior’s central business district. But traffic moved slowly and backed up more than three blocks from North 21st Street shortly after 3 p.m. as motorists navigated trenches carved into loosened snow on Tower Avenue.

Wednesday morning, the plan was to turn back to those main arterial routes to improve as more residential neighborhoods opened to traffic again and loaders cleared alleys so garbage and recycling trucks could resume collection operations. Plans included clearing school crossings as students headed back to school after 18 inches of dense, wet snow fell over the weekend.

Mayor Jim Paine was hopeful late Tuesday afternoon that the city would soon be able to announce an “all clear.” He wasn’t certain when that would happen.

“I’m sure we missed something,” Paine said. “Or it will look like we missed something. So after we give the 'all clear,' I’m going to have to do something to let us know what we missed and we’ll do some kind of cleanup and catching the folks we missed.”

Paine hoped to send plow drivers home by 11 p.m. Tuesday before they hit the roads again Wednesday to clear the main roads again. And he’s hopeful to push back snowbanks in residential areas later this week in preparation for vehicles to switch sides of the street for calendar parking.

“We have a lot of work to do this week,” Paine said.

Paine said among his goals is get plow operators, who’ve put in 16-hour days since Saturday, at least one full day off.

“Every day, we’re seeing how far we get,” Paine said.

During the storm, crews struggled to keep even the main arterial routes open.

“We have a pretty great plan for removing snow,” Paine said. “That plan only works so well in the bigger storms. The storms can overwhelm that plan.”

Mike Matejka blows out his neighbor’s driveway in the Central Park area of Superior on Tuesday afternoon, Dec. 3, while the neighbor was at work. A minivan has been stuck in the driveway for days. (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)
Mike Matejka blows out his neighbor’s driveway in the Central Park area of Superior on Tuesday afternoon, Dec. 3, while the neighbor was at work. A minivan has been stuck in the driveway for days. (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)

That’s what happened over the weekend. While plow crews were out Saturday, before the snow started to fall, the 18 inches of heavy, wet snow forced the city to use graders to clear the roadways.

Paine said the depth and density of the snow was the No. 1 challenge plow drivers and grader operators faced in dealing with cleanup this particular snowstorm.

“The weight of the snow, as well as the amount, led to it being packed down and very, very difficult to remove,” Paine said. “So you need very heavy equipment with a lot of downward pressure to dig this up. That’s why ordinary plows don’t do it … only a grader will do it.”

He said the city would have been cleared out much quicker if 2 feet of light snow or several inches of the type of snow that fell Saturday and Sunday had fallen.

“We could only use certain pieces of equipment to remove this,” Paine said.

The storm and the lengthy clean up have offered lessons and prompted discussions on how to better address storms like this one.

Paine said city officials have learned “tons” from the once-in-a-generation storm.

“We’ve been working on new plans all day,” Paine said. “I’ve been speaking with the county, the state of Wisconsin, our Public Works Department, and we’re all just kind of brainstorming right now ideas of ways we can come together to assist each other, recognizing we may not be the focus of the next emergency so we want to be able to assist other folks as well.”

He said the city is also looking at its available equipment and possible new ways that equipment can be used.

The mayor is encouraging residents to contact the city if they believe they’ve been missed during the snow-clearing operations. Email mayor@ci.superior.wi.us.