The City of Madison officially declared a Snow Emergency late Tuesday morning, following several hours of snowfall that have spurred school closings throughout southern Wisconsin. This marks the third major winter storm to hit the region in ten days, with each accompanied by an enactment of the emergency rules setting parking restrictions in the city.
"There haven't been this many consecutive Snow Emergencies that I'm aware of," says city Streets Division spokesperson George Dreckmann, "certainly never this early in the year." He says that streets superintendent Al Schumacher along with operations and field staff discussed the conditions and made the declaration in anticipation of the ice storm expected south and east of Madison later in the day.
"The messy mixture of precipitation will cause rapidly deteriorating travel conditions," noted the National Weather Service in a statement on the storm that is bringing Ice Storm and Winter Storm warnings across the southern third of the state. "The freezing rain may result in significant icing across portions of southeast Wisconsin with ice accumulations greater than one quarter inch. The icing would cut back on snow amounts in the Milwaukee, Waukesha, Racine, Kenosha, and Janesville areas." Closer to Madison, though, heavier accumulations of snow are likely, upwards of 4 to 5 inches.
"Obviously, we will be putting down salt where we can and sand in other places if we need to" says Dreckmann of the snow and possible freezing rain. "We're trying to stay ahead of it as we can, but it's a challenge. Freezing rain is the worst possible thing you can get, and there's not a lot you can do about it other than to put stuff down. Sometimes it gets so bad out there that you have to stop because it's just too dangerous to have our crews out, but we don't know what the conditions will be today. We will continue to put down sand and salt as long as we can."
As for the Snow Emergency, alternate side parking restrictions are now in effect throughout the whole city, with residents parking on the street required to park on the even house numbered side of streets on Tuesday and the odd numbered side on Wednesday. Residents can also park for free in city ramps from 1 a.m. to 7 a.m. during the emergency. Full details are available in the press release in the related downloads at right. Though several east side alders have proposed extending these hours, along with other ideas for dealing with heavy snowfalls, the current rules remain in place.
This latest Snow Emergency remains in effect at least through 7 a.m. on Thursday, December 13. Dreckmann suggests residents sign up for the city's Snow Emergency email list to receive direct notification of these announcements.
What about the limited pot of snowplow money amidst these quick-fire storms? "We can't worry about it," says Dreckmann. "We have to deal with public safety first and foremost. We will plow it and then come back and get the money we need."