Letter Re: The Recent Blizzard on I-90 in Wisconsin

I read the link that was submitted by Craig in Odds ‘n Sods. The Channel 3000 story couldn’t be farther from the truth. As a local first responder, I can attest that we are getting the short end of the stick. The State Patrol didn’t even acknowledge there was any problem on the interstate until hours after our crews were already on scene. They didn’t even know that Dane County had set up an incident command headquarters at the Highway 51 interchange. The first semi trucks started losing traction as early as 10 a.m.that day. Near blizzard conditions had been present all the previous night. I am on Stoughton, Wisconsin EMS team, and my cousin is with the Stoughton Fire Department. My cousin and his friend, also a firefighter, responded to the command center with personally owned snowmobiles.

Shortly after these two individuals start checking the welfare of motorists, a State Patrol officer stopped them and read them the riot act for daring to drive snowmobiles on what he called “my interstate.” He threatened to give both emergency responders (acting under fire command orders) citations for operating the snowmobiles on the interstate. They had been tasked by the incident commander with recon of the southbound lanes, they made it to the Rock River (where the Rock County incident command was set up), and were met by more than 30 members of the local snowmobile club. These private citizens came ready equipped with food, water and first aid. The two local firefighters were tasked by Rock Co. incident command to split up the club members into two teams and check lanes in both directions.

At no time did the local responders ever see National Guard members on snowmobiles. Nor did they ever see any on the interstate. The National Guard were handing out water and food from one truck at the Dane Co. incident command headquarters to emergency workers. The stranded motorists soon started to become covered by snow drifts. Many said that was the most scary aspect, as well as the total lack of information. Local cell towers became overloaded. Communications were accomplished by “CB relay chains”.

Several diabetic motorists were assisted by snowmobilers, and one patient who was en route to the University of Wisconsin Hospital in his privately owned car was loaned a portable generator since the internal battery on the patient’s medical device ran out.

The National Guard chopper was seen overhead on several occasions, but never landed as far as I know. Much later in the day, after some traffic flow began, the snowmobilers had to go back out to the interstate to wake up some of the semi truck drivers, who had been sleeping in their cabs, and whose rigs were now blocking traffic flow. All told, the firefighter/snowmobilers logged over 400 miles traversing a 25 mile stretch of I-90. – BadgerDad, EMT-IV