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Eau Claire faces high bills and snow hills after a snowy February

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Kailin Schumacher

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Multiple snow storms leads to more snow than Eau Claire can hold

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Eau Claire faces high bills and snow hills after a snowy February

Eau Claire County Highway Department plow sets out to combat snowy roads.

Eau Claire County Highway Department plow sets out to combat snowy roads.

© 2019 Kailin Schumacher

Eau Claire County Highway Department plow sets out to combat snowy roads.

© 2019 Kailin Schumacher

© 2019 Kailin Schumacher

Eau Claire County Highway Department plow sets out to combat snowy roads.

With record-amounts of snow and low temperatures hitting Eau Claire, county highway workers have been working day and night to keep roads safe for travel.  These big snowstorms force city workers like David Gotlibson to work 18-hour shifts salting roads and plowing highways. 

“The first part of the season was hardly any snow and now we’ve gotten all our snow in one month,” Gotlibson said.

But with so much snow hitting the area so fast, highways are too full to plow snow off to the side of roads and away from medians. To combat blind spots and narrow roads, Eau Claire County Assistant Highway Commissioner Brian Spilde said graters and snow blowers are used to tow the snow off the highway and away from the city streets.

“We’re running out of space on interchanges. Your 95 to 53 interchanges. There is just no place to put the snow,” Spilde said. “We take that snow, and we haul it off and actually we take it down to an actual material pit off of Highway 37 where it’s just piled and will melt.”

Dumping the snow in the pit not only helps clear highways, but also keeps the river free of salt. This will also help with flooding in the Chippewa River when the snow melts.

Cleaning up snow does cost the city though. And with multiple storms and more snow in the forecast, clean up bills are piling higher than the snow hills. The city spent nearly $20,000 on overtime alone during the first week of February.

“Just in one week of Feb. 3 to 9 — just on the county-side of things, we spent $109,000,” Spilde said.

According to the department that’s a high number. They typically budgets $170,000 a month for snow removal.

“It just goes to show you how crazy and unknowing it can be,” Spilde said. “If we have three or four snowfalls like that in a month, it can really affect our budget.”

With more snow on the way, the county highway department is asking drivers to be patient with plows and to drive slow on snowy roads.

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Eau Claire faces high bills and snow hills after a snowy February