OSHKOSH — As extreme weather continued through northeast Wisconsin on Friday, areas with whiteout conditions, black ice, snow accumulation and high winds spelled danger for drivers.
Commercial truck driver Anthony Quander said he stopped at a travel plaza in Oshkosh on his way to Wyoming because conditions were too hazardous.
"It's not worth risking myself or anyone else,” Quander said. “It's best just if you don't feel comfortable with situations or you don't feel comfortable with... your stopping distance… just to shut it down.”
According to Mark Kantola with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, deciding not to travel in these conditions is the safest choice.
“Despite what anybody sees looking out their window, or how they feel about the appropriateness of driving, there is still significant risk on the roadways pertaining to weather [including] ice, white outs, and slippery conditions,” Kantola said.
Sgt. Joe Patenaude with the Brown County Sheriff’s Office said they responded to about 75 weather calls Friday morning, and the county issued a tow ban beginning around 11 a.m. Patenaude said this means that if a car slipped off the road, an officer would arrive to help them get to a safe place, but their vehicle would remain in the location of the incident unless it presented an “immediate hazard” to other traffic.
“The reason for that is because it's just not safe for officers or tow trucks to be parked on the side of the road trying to remove a vehicle while there's significant traffic on the roadways that could potentially trigger another crash,” Patenaude said.
Manitowoc and Outagamie counties also issued tow bans due to the storm.
Lieutenant Lori Seiler at the Winnebago County Sheriff’s Office said she responded to two crashes on the Butte des Morts Bridge, which shut the bridge down for 20 minutes.
“Stay at home and only travel if it's necessary,” Seiler said. “I know Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are right around the corner, but possibly use a social media platform to visit with your family instead of driving to their home. And just be safe if you are on the roadways.”
Kantola said drivers who must travel should check conditions on 511wi.gov.
“If you go [to that website], you can see the road conditions on highways across Wisconsin— 14,000 lane miles—and it's going to show you if there's slippery stretches, if it’s snow covered, if it's ice covered, or if it's good winter driving.”
Seiler and Patenaude both said there were fewer incidents than there could have been because most drivers adhered to safety warnings.
"It's probably fewer than what I was expecting due to the pre-warnings...” Seiler said.