When there is a weather emergency in December, the Wright County Highway Department typically has a plan in place before the storm arrives. But, with the unique set of circumstances coming this evening – severe thunderstorms, dangerously high winds and a temperature drop of 30 degrees from sunset to sunrise, multiple plans of attack are being strategized.
Wright County Highway Maintenance Supervisor said this is something he’s never seen in mid-December and planning is underway to be ready for whatever tonight is going to throw at his drivers.
“This is unbelievable,” Helgeson said. “I’ve never seen a day of preparation like we’ve had today. There are expected to be severe thunderstorms rolling through followed by extremely high winds and then snow and a significant temperature. We’re preparing for three or four different scenarios taking place in about a 12-hour period.”
At midnight, the projected temperature will be 37 degrees with wet roads and a projection of 20 degrees by 7 a.m. – an overnight change of 17 degrees and a 12-hour difference of approximately 30 degrees, all the while under a Severe Wind Warning with sustained winds of 30 miles per hour or more and gusts in excess of 60 mph.
If winds stay strong, roads in the open areas of the county will be in better condition because the constant winds will help dry out the roads. Those in sheltered areas will be much more likely to need treatment. If it doesn’t dry off, the entire 500-plus miles of the Wright County road system will require treatment – either a de-icing liquid brine solution or salt or a combination of both in the worst conditions.
The Highway Department spent much of this morning making sure all of its chainsaws were gassed up and ready to go because there is expected to be tree damage with this storm that could impact county highways and roads.
Helgeson said if people are out on the roads, county highway trucks will likely be out in force between midnight and 2 a.m.
“If we have to treat to entire system, if we start by 2 (a.m.), we should have the whole system treated by 6 (a.m.) in time for the morning commute,” Helgeson said. “There are going to be a lot of factors to this one that may change by midnight, but going on the best information we have now, that’s our plan. We don’t want any ice on the roads so we’re going to do our best to stay ahead of it.”