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Douglas County reports passable roads

Superior crews working to clear residential streets, alleys

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Brigid Ripley shovels snow off her car on Baxter Avenue in Superior Monday, Dec. 2. "I hope it's my car," she joked. Ripley said she was impressed Sunday by the outpouring of neighborliness as people helped one another dig out from the storm. "There were neighbors with snow blowers and shovels everywhere you looked," she said. (Maria Lockwood / mlockwood@superiortelegram.com)
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The city’s goal was to clear all residential streets and start on alleys by 4:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 2, so plow crews working since Saturday, Nov. 30, could rest up after the weekend that brought about 18 inches of new snow to Superior.

By mid-day Monday, moving through the dense-packed snow was slow going, prompting a new plan: The city’s going to keep the plows working 16 hours a day, with eight hours for rest, until residential streets and alleys can be cleared. And trash and recycling collection was canceled for Tuesday, Dec. 3.

The city only has a limited number of qualified commercial driver’s license operators for the graders being used to clear the snow-packed streets, Mayor Jim Paine said.

In the wake of the weekend storm, there were no travel advisories on county or state highways. All were passable, but there was concern about intersections where snow is piled up, impeding visibility for drivers in small vehicles, according to Ryan Haworth, Douglas County highway operations manager.

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A tow truck remains wedged in a snowy alley between North 17th and Harrison streets Monday morning. (Maria Lockwood / mlockwood@superiortelegram.com)

“We’re going to be working on that today, tomorrow, Wednesday,” Haworth said. “We’re going to continue widening, scraping, trying to get that compaction up.”

The expected sunshine and mild temperatures could help roads clear quickly, unlike storms in the middle of winter that freeze snow in place. Haworth cautioned drivers to be careful of slushy conditions.

The Douglas County Highway Department maintains nine state routes and 14 county highways.

Plow drivers in Superior and Douglas County were called in about midday Saturday as the snow started in earnest. No plows were pulled, but some drivers reported visibility was down to zero Saturday night.

Paine said during the worst of the storm, city plow drivers struggled to keep main arteries through the city open.

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A city snow plow clears snow at the intersection of Harrison Street and Baxter Avenue Monday, Dec. 2. (Maria Lockwood / mlockwood@superiortelegram.com)

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“We did have some trucks that did get stuck toward the end,” Haworth said. Most plows were off the roads by 8 p.m. Saturday except on that slid off the road that didn’t get back into the garage by 11 p.m. There was no damage and the driver wasn’t injured.

The two overnight workers concentrated efforts on U.S. Highway 53 and Highway 2, keeping the route open. By 3:30 a.m. Sunday, county road crews were back on the job. Haworth said there haven’t been many complaints, just a few mailbox issues. Superior’s got the spotlight right now.

“This is a historic storm. I kind of feel bad for the city because they’re getting a real bad rap right now. And their guys worked as hard as our guys did,” Haworth said. “We had 15- to 16-hour days. We had a couple of guys that didn’t even go home; they slept at the garage.”

The mayor’s update on Facebook of the city’s progress prompted dozens of complaints about residential streets that still hadn’t been plowed in the city.

By midday Monday, Paine said crews were out in every neighborhood working to clear streets. He said every piece of city equipment is out on the street involved in the cleanup, whether plowing or sanding streets.

“The only thing that is going to hold us up is the cars that are stuck in the street,” Paine said. “If there’s cars on both sides of the street, we’re just not going to be able to plow that with graders.”

Paine said he anticipates city streets to be cleared by the end of the day Monday, then will move on to alleys Tuesday, Dec. 3, and finish the cleanup after that.

“It’s an inconvenience and it’s unfortunate, but in these kind of events, people just need to have patience,” Haworth said. “Let the crews do their work. We’re doing everything in our power to get things done.”

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With all the blowing and drifting snow, Douglas County Emergency Management Director Dave Sletten said it's important for residents to check and clear vents for furnaces and other appliances in their homes. The storm also offers a good chance to plan ahead for future emergencies.

Sletten encourages everyone to have emergency preparedness kits for their homes and cars.

Snowfall totals

Reported Sunday, Dec. 1
  • Ashland, 1:51 p.m., 17.9"
  • Blueberry, 10:49 a.m., 21.5"
  • Lake Nebagamon, 7:11 a.m., 16"
  • Maple, 3:11 p.m., 18.2"
  • Oulu, 3:35 p.m., 14"
  • Poplar, 2:06 p.m., 17.8"
  • Solon Springs, 7 a.m., 17.2"
  • Superior, 1:30 p.m., 15"

Source: National Weather Service

PHOTOS: Photo gallery: Superior digs out after blizzard

Related Topics: DOUGLAS COUNTY
Maria Lockwood covers news in Douglas County, Wisconsin, for the Superior Telegram.
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