Saturday, October 20, 2018

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Snowstorm strikes Chippewa Valley

Schools closed, workers released earlyas snow blankets area

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    A U.S. Postal Service mail carrier fixes tire chains on her vehicle while making a delivery Monday in Eau Claire.

    Staff photo by Steve Kinderman
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    Janis Ray of Eau Claire rides her fat tire bike Monday down a trail near Folsom Street during the season’s biggest winter storm. Ray said she rides the bike most every day and that the west side landscape Monday was especially beautiful. View more photos at

    Staff photo by Steve Kinderman
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    Airport workers clear snow Mondayfrom in front of the terminal building at the Chippewa Valley Regional Airport in Eau Claire. The season’s heaviest and wettest snowfall closed numerous schools and made travel hazardous in the region.

    Staff photo by Steve Kinderman
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A snowstorm slammed the Chippewa Valley Monday, closing schools and sending workers home early from their jobs.

Much of the Chippewa Valley received at least 7 inches of snow, and parts of the area were expected to get up to a foot of snow.

Several crashes were reported by the Eau Claire Police Department and the Wisconsin State Patrol.

The State Patrol responded to a crash at 4:40 p.m. on Interstate 94 just south of Eau Claire that closed both westbound lanes of traffic.

As of 4 p.m., Eau Claire police had responded to five crashes and nine vehicle assistance calls.

“With the snow continuing, we expect a lot more,” police spokeswoman Bridget Coit said late Monday afternoon. 

Oakwood Mall closed at 4 p.m. to “ensure guests’ and retailers’ safety,” according to the mall owner.

Royal Credit Union closed its offices at 4:30 p.m. because of the inclement weather. 

Alternate side parking went into effect today and will end on Thursday. On odd-numbered days, vehicles shall only be parked, stopped or left standing on that side of the street having odd-numbered addresses. On even-numbered days, vehicles shall only be parked, stopped or left standing on the side of the street having even-numbered addresses.

With schools closed and employers sending their employees home early, “we have observed throughout the day that there was less traffic on the road,” Coit said.

And crashes tend to be less frequent when major storms, such as this one, are predicted a few days in advance, she said.

“People out on the road are being more diligent,” Coit said.

Snow removal trucks were kept busy Monday at the Chippewa Valley Regional Airport, making sure the runways are open and clear.

“The airport is open 24/​7 — we almost never close,” said airport director Charity Zich. “We’re similar to highways, in than we just keep plowing snow. But, we can’t use salt because it’s corrosive (and can damage airplanes). We use a pellet and sand. We also sweep.”

The airport has a small crew that takes care of both the parking lots and the runways, so they were busy Monday.

“Our snow removal operations begin with a half-inch of snow, and goes from there,” Zich said. “(The runway) can take 30 to 60 minutes. But on a day like today, it can be a continuous process, going all day long.”

Larger airports have more challenges removing snow, as they have more aircraft coming in, leaving a narrow window for crew to get out and clear.

“We have a little more time to clear things off,” she said.

The workers don’t delay the process, either, as planes can arrive at any time without an appointment, she added.

Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee uses rubber and plastic plows because metal ones would damage runways. Zich said they don’t use rubber or plastic, but they have a variety of equipment to protect the runway surface while snow is removed.

“We have all kinds of edges on our plows,” she said.

Contact: 715-833-9207,

Contact: 715-723-0303,

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