ECPD responds to 10 crashes, 60 vehicle assists due to snowfall

Police department received the calls within a six-hour timeframe

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Taylor Hagmann

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ECPD responds to 10 crashes, 60 vehicle assists due to snowfall

 A small post stands heavy with snow, a reminder of the blizzard that has hit Eau Claire recently.

A small post stands heavy with snow, a reminder of the blizzard that has hit Eau Claire recently.

Photo by Sam Farley

A small post stands heavy with snow, a reminder of the blizzard that has hit Eau Claire recently.

Photo by Sam Farley

Photo by Sam Farley

A small post stands heavy with snow, a reminder of the blizzard that has hit Eau Claire recently.

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Living in Wisconsin, winter is expected to be filled with frigidly cold temperatures and heavy snowfall.

Up until the end of January, this winter was mild compared to past midwestern winters. With heavy snowfalls last Tuesday and -50 degree wind chills in January, this winter has nearly broken records in Eau Claire, and bypassed records in other parts of the state.

Tuesday, Feb. 5 was one day in particular for the record books.

The city of Eau Claire recorded 7.7 inches of snow last Tuesday, according to WEAU.

While that is not unheard of in this part of the country, this storm was “one of the bigger ones” in the past few years, said Sergeant Mike Major of the Eau Claire Police Department.

He said the snow caught everyone off guard; no one was expecting that much in that short of time, so the city was not prepared to handle it. Having the worst of the storm hit around 4:30 p.m. made the community’s drive home from work incredibly hazardous, he said.

“We had to shut down hills,” Major said.

Major said this was partly because the hills were so dangerous, and partly because they needed to be plowed. He said it took some people up to 30 minutes just to climb the hill on Harding Street. State Street’s hill also proved troublesome for many, he said. Additionally, he said the county had to close a stretch on Bypass 53 for some time.

In a six-hour timeframe, the police department received calls about 10 crashes, all of which were minor, Major reported. They also responded to calls about 60 vehicle assists for cars that had gone off the road or were stuck in the snow.

Officers were required to work longer shifts Tuesday to handle all the calls, Major said.

“Our day shift officers had to stay late and we called in the night shift early,” Major said.

Cars that were unoccupied got a green sticker to denote they had been checked and were left in the ditch. The police department focused on problematic areas, like the hills, and only drove vehicles with four-wheel drive, Major said.

“Anything that wasn’t all-wheel drive wasn’t going anywhere,” he said. “Everyone came together and helped out. If people got stuck, like at a stop light, we’d see others jump out of their vehicles to help.”

As for preparing for the anticipated 5-9” this week, Major said it’s best for everyone to just stay home. However, if it is necessary to drive, members of the community should take caution on the roads.

“Be patient and expect delays, especially during busy times,” he said. “Slow down. And make sure you have warm clothes and a shovel.”

Majors said locals need to make sure they clear off all the windows on their car before driving, not just a circle on their windshield. The department tweeted a photo depiction of this issue last winter.

Lastly, he added no one should be walking on the road, even if it seems like a good alternative to the snow-covered sidewalks. He said he knows it is tempting when the sidewalks are covered in snow to walk along the road, but it is easy for a car to slide out and hit a pedestrian that way.

Fortunately, Major said, there were no accidents involving pedestrians this time around.

Hagmann can be reached at [email protected]

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