Weather Forecast


Pierce County (Wis.) escaped snow burial, so road salt goes south

ELLSWORTH, Wis. -- As any Ellsworth High School wrestling fan who attended recent state tournament action in person knows firsthand, Southern Wisconsin has experienced more than its share of snow this winter.

Plenty of that snow has been blown into seemingly mile-high drifts during a procession of near-endless storms. But snow piles rivaling the tallest nature has made stand along streets, sidewalks and alleys in communities south and east of Pierce County, pushed to record heights by highway equipment, too.

The equipment operators left in their wake slick paths to be dealt with by their road departments, as well as the motorists and pedestrians who use them. To be expected, the solution to this slipperiness came in the form of liberal applications of salt.

So much salt, in fact, stockpiles of the substance in the southeastern part of the state are rapidly being depleted. And that's where less-snowbound neighbors to the north are now asked to help.

Case in point: the 1,000 tons of road salt loaded into a caravan of dump trucks from a storage shed at the Pierce County Highway Department last week. It's the state's salt, Pierce Patrol Superintendent Al Thoner said Thursday, and the owner figures there's greater need for it elsewhere.

"We'll have to be more conservative," Thoner said about treating roads in his department's jurisdiction the rest of this season, now that a big bite has been taken out of highway's supply.

The superintendent said state officials looked at a five-year average of snowfall in this area to calculate how much of the surplus in Ellsworth could be spared. Based in the southeast region, they arranged for a fleet of haulers to travel to highway headquarters off Hwy. 65 early Thursday morning. Over two hours, an estimated 40 trucks were loaded at the local salt shed, capable of holding a winter's worth of road salt, before heading back to places such as Madison, Columbia, Dane and Jefferson counties, and the suburbs of Milwaukee.

Unwilling to say the takers left the county short of the material-in-demand, Thoner did admit Pierce's stock won't be replenished until fall. Meantime, acknowledging March can be a snowy month in these parts, he said his department only uses sand for traction on county roads, relying strictly on salt for U.S. and state highways in Pierce. The lone exception is when temperatures dip so low that salt becomes ineffective.

Read more in the print version of the Pierce County Herald March 5.