City plow crews marked their 10th straight day of work on Tuesday and their streak of clearing off roads is expected to continue through the end of the week.
They’ve battled with powdery snow, heavy slush, rain and ice due to multiple winter storms passing through and temperatures that have varied between extreme cold and above-average warmth.
“It hasn’t been a normal weather pattern,” said street maintenance manager Steven Thompson.
Temperatures swung from negative 31 degrees recorded last week on Wednesday, Jan. 30, and Thursday in Eau Claire up to a high of 41 degrees on Sunday, melting snow on the ground. But water on the road froze as temperatures dropped by the start of the workweek, prompting crews to spread salt to melt ice off main roads and sand on other areas to improve traction.
“Ice is always the hardest thing to deal with,” Thompson said.
Heavy snow then began falling Tuesday afternoon.
With drivers putting in some long hours last week, Thompson has switched them to rotating shifts — 12 hours off after 12-hour work shifts — to give them more rest.
And if extra drivers are needed to help the 29 regular city plow workers, Thompson could tap employees from other departments — parks and utilities — who have truck driving licenses.
The city has 45 pieces of plowing equipment — 22 dump trucks, 14 pickups for narrower streets and an assortment of other vehicles including loaders and graders.
A snowstorm that reached Eau Claire on Tuesday afternoon was expected to dump up to seven inches, according to the National Weather Service. There is a chance for more snow today with the likelihood increasing tonight into Thursday.
The two mid-week winter storms could bring up to 13 inches of snow to Eau Claire, though there may be some freezing drizzle in there too.
The city put alternate-side parking rules into effect today through Friday to give plows a chance to thoroughly clear snow off streets and onto curbs. Vehicles can only be parked along the side of streets with even-numbered addresses today and Friday, and use the opposite side of the street on Thursday.
Eau Claire’s snow cleanup is expected to last into Friday and Thompson hopes Saturday will be the first day in a while that plow trucks won’t be patrolling city streets.
Crews that clear off rural and state highways in the county also worked last weekend, putting them in a similar stretch as the city plow drivers.
“We’ve had some extreme weather changes,” said Jon Johnson, Eau Claire County highway commissioner.
Eighteen plow trucks patrol county highways and another 13 are assigned to sections of the major state highways in the county.
Johnson advised motorists to drive slowly and be careful this week while road crews work to clear roads amid the snowstorms.
“It’s going to be slippery and snow-covered,” he said. “It’s just winter in Wisconsin.”