Madison - In the midst of the snowstorm this month that stranded more than 1,500 cars south of Madison for up to 12 hours, state officials refused to shut down I-90/39, blocked snowmobilers from checking on drivers and nearly shut down the emergency response center at the height of the crisis.I-90 is the Interstate between Chicago and Madison. It continues up to the Twin Cities, so I can understand some reluctance to shut it down, but after 1500 vehicles get stuck, what's the point of keeping it "open"?
The storm dumped 13.4 inches of snow on Madison. A crash was reported around 11:15 a.m. and later northbound trucks were unable to get up an icy hill on I-90/39 south of Madison, causing a bottleneck that blocked traffic for 12 hours. More than 1,500 vehicles were stranded for at least some of that time....Uh huh.
• A state trooper posted on the state Department of Transportation Web site at 5 p.m. that the freeway was impassable, but commanders had the post taken down.
• At 5:15 p.m. - 15 minutes after watching newscasts that led with the traffic backup - the Wisconsin Emergency Management timeline log says officials decided to shut the Emergency Operations Center at 6 p.m. because there were "no pressing reports of large scale accidents or blockages."
• Jeff Western, the state Bureau of Highways representative at the emergency center, told his replacement not to come in and left at 5:15 p.m. Because of that, his agency did not participate in a 5:40 p.m. multiagency planning session that was set up because of the Dane County call.In hindsight, this might be considered a mistake.
• Dane County dispatched snowmobiles to check on people in stuck vehicles. Rock County tried to do the same thing, but the incident commander, State Patrol Lt. Lauri Steeber, refused to give them access to the road around 9:20 p.m. The snowmobiles were later allowed on the road, Dunbar said.I'd like to know why she made that decision.
This is Wisconsin's snowiest winter on record, and I think it follows quite a few years of below average snow, so a lot of people who are responsible for running things may well be out of practice. That happens, but that is exactly the point of being personally prepared: You cannot rely on others to take care of you right away.
While there are plenty of evolutionary dead enders even in Wisconsin who aren't ready for getting stuck in a snowstorm, plenty keep blankets, candles and matches for heat, candy bars, and spare winter clothes in the trunk all winter. Also a crank up radio, shovel, sand or kitty litter, a couple flashlights with fresh batteries, jumper cables, and a first aid kit. And a tow cable: if you can't get yourself out, someone who can may come along. Water/drinks are tougher given the problem with freezing (that's also a problem with first aid ointments) but if you are stuck in the snow, then snow is available.
Patrick Marley has the story in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.