Rain forces road crews to wait for the ice

When it rains first, it forces Public Works to wait so the road salt doesn't get washed away
Published: Nov. 29, 2022 at 6:56 PM CST
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - The rain-freeze potential Tuesday night into Wednesday morning makes it tricky for local public works departments to plan ahead. Instead of being proactive, they’re forced to be reactive.

When it comes to the weather, public works departments always have one eye on the forecast and like to have a plan in place. Ordinarily in advance of winter weather, you’d see trucks treating the road with salt or brine.

But with the rain kicking off the weather conditions, we’re told there’s not much crews can do in advance. When looking at road preps, departments have to weigh the need, the cost, and the possible environmental impact or runoff.

Green Bay Public Works Director Steve Grenier says if they would pre-salt the roads earlier Tuesday, the rain would just wash it away. It would be a waste of product and money.

“Anything that we do get, we’re expecting the state more in the rain bands. So for this particular storm, we’re really just keeping an eye on it monitoring, checking to see if anything changes direction, but we’re not doing a whole lot in the way of active preparation for this storm,” Grenier said.

The Brown County highway commissioner says his crews are forced to do the same thing. They can’t put down too much until it stops raining.

He also believes the wind Tuesday night will help the water on the roads evaporate fairly quickly, so hopefully icing will be less of a problem.

”The pavement ground temperature is what we’re really concerned with,” Grenier explained. “If the pavement temperature is still above 32 degrees, and we get even a freezing rain or rain that comes down and it makes contact with that pavement, then it warms up to above 32 degrees and becomes liquid, rolls off into the curb and gutter, goes down into the storm sewer and goes away. That thin film that can help create black ice is really what we start worrying about, and that we tend to just monitor.”

Drivers are reminded to give themselves extra time for their travel, extra distance from the vehicle ahead, and to keep an eye on changing road conditions, especially on bridges and overpasses since they freeze sooner than roadways with no ground to insulate them.