Highway officials ask for landowner cooperation on driveway spoils
As the fleet of St. Croix County snow-fighters girded for battle again Thursday morning, highway department officials implored landowners to use care as to where they push and shove the snow as they clear driveways and private roads.
"We'd prefer if they could bring it in" instead of shoving it onto the shoulders of the county roads, said Highway Commission Tim Ramberg.
State law and county ordinances prohibit the storing of snow in any way which can obstruct vision or limit vision, movement or access by people or vehicles.
"Pushing snow or other materials onto or across highways from private driveways can cause accidents and injury and is prohibited," Ramberg noted in a news release issued Wednesday. "Avoid penalty and liability and cooperate toward safer highways. The life you save may be your own."
Upon the conclusion of Thursday morning's snowfall, Patrol Superintendent Jim Krizan said some 42 county plows would fan out to clear state, county and township roads.
When winds whip up and cause severe drifting, Krizan also deploys six motorgraders to push back deep snow. The department has also fired up its old Oshkosh rotary plow once to clear heavy drifts from CTH N and W, south of Hammond.
Ramberg said that plow operators have to dodge between 8,000 and 10,000 mailboxes along those routes, along with guardrail, signs, poles a dozens of other obstacles.
As the winter wears on, drivers are increasingly experiencing equipment breakdowns when front-, wing- and belly-blades strike snow piles hardened by melt and compaction. Further, operators must sometimes stop and push away large piles left on- or near the right-of-way.
The nearest part of the mailbox can't be closer than the shoulder line and Ramberg said it's important the homeowners keep their mailboxes clear of snow and visible.
And contrary to some popular opinion, plow operators don't try to plug anyone's driveway with snow wind-rows, nor do they try to give anyone preferential treatment by clearing those wind-rows, said Ramberg.
When measured by the institutional memory of their drivers -- some with 30 years experience -- this winter has been the worst, Ramberg said.
Episodes of snow, rain, refreezing, light snowfall and melting have posed real challenges to keeping roads clear.
Motorists have collided -- either by sideswipe or rear-end strikes -- with at least three county plows and one sheriff's department squad car.
Krizen said they're at nearly 50 percent more driver call-outs than a typical winter.
"We're doing alright. This is just an old-fashioned winter," he said. "But it does get old."