Remote Weather Stations Help Crews Know How to Treat Highways - WBAY

Remote Weather Stations Help Crews Know How to Treat Highways

Winnebago County -

There is more technology than ever to help highway departments determine how and when to treat specific roads.

There are currently 60 remote weather information stations across the state.

Five are located in the northeast region in Oconto, Brown, Sheboygan, Winnebago and Fond du Lac counties.  The Wisconsin DOT says more are being added.  The stations can help counties become more efficient in salt usage by using the stations.

On snowy days like Thursday, instead of guessing what the wind speeds and air/pavement temperatures are, some highway departments like Winnebago County, use state weather stations to take the guess work out.  The stations can capture all that data in real time, remotely from a specific location.

"When you're trying to get a forecast for a particular highway and particular county, if you're only using airports and some of those big doppler systems around, you're not getting a lot of coverage," says Michael Sproul, WisDOT's Winter Maintenance Engineer. "It's interprelating between those stations and giving a best guess. What these remote weather systems do is make that density a lot tighter so that the forecasts are a lot more accurate down to a highway level instead of a county level or a region level."

Sproul adds highway departments can't just send plow drivers to have them do all the same thing. "Unless you know what's happening on a particular highway, you're sort of going blind."

Winnebago County Highway Maintenance Superintendent Bill Demler says he uses the readings that are transmitted to his office to determine how much salt to use, if any, or to switch to something else.

"The salt will work really well at 23, 24 degrees," Demler says. "If this says zero, then we know we're going to have to do some other things, either maybe a little sand mix, depending on what you have."

He says the county has had its station for about 10 to 15 years. And it's saved the department money and salt.

"One of the biggest benefits we found was the salt brine," said Demler. "Cause the salt needs moisture to activate to start melting the snow and the ice, and when you spray the salt brine on the salt, before it hits the ground, now you're getting the salt wet, so it cuts down a lot on the amount of salt you need."

The DOT says those savings would be especially beneficial this winter season as departments across state used up most of their salt supply already, with two more months of winter left.

Demler pointed outside through his windshield and says "that shed out there is not empty, but it's getting close."

Demler believes there are two more stations being built in Winnebago County. 

"They're going to add one on Hwy 45 near Winchester for sure and I know there's talk about putting on the bridge on Lake Butte de Morts in Oshkosh," he said. "The more information you have, the better you are."

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