A return to winter weather keeps Highway Department on its toes

Snowy road conditions
Published: Nov. 29, 2022 at 9:33 PM CST
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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) - As the weather turns colder, the people at Marathon County Highway Maintenance know that they have a big task to tackle once again this winter.

Marathon County Highway Maintenance supervisor Paul Schilling says the smaller snowfalls early in the season often cause the most problems. “Those are the ones I think really catch everyone off guard. They think they’re back in their winter driving mode. Really they’re not, because you can see up and down 51,” Schilling said.

When the snow comes on fast, that compounds the problem as traffic packs it down. “If we do get that 7-10 inches of snow, they’ll have that ironed onto the road almost immediately, and instant ice,” Schilling said.

The highway department keeps up with the National Weather Service to attempt to predict trouble areas and all the equipment is ready to go at a moment’s notice. “During the day we prepped all the trucks. The guys went through them, made sure if there’s any little defect we can pick that up. They did pre-load the trucks,” Schilling says.

Sudden temperature drops make it trickier, and the response has to be that much faster. “If it would just be a snow coming in, then we’d be doing the pre-wetting, the anti-icing and all that stuff,” Schilling said.

Supervisors like Schilling use laser-driven sensors to monitor pavement temperatures to keep the roads as safe as possible. “With any luck I can find the right time to call the guys back in before and if it does ice over,” he said.