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City, county brace for expected storm
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MONROE - With weather experts predicting up to a foot of snow to roll into the Midwest by Wednesday, area street and highway departments appear to be ready.

Salt supplies are stocked in both Green County and Monroe.

In June, the City of Monroe received 900 tons of salt, which it purchased at $67 per ton, said Tom Boll, Monroe street supervisor.

The city ordered 1,300 tons for the 2009-2010 winter season. Last year, the city was not able to find much salt available due to the severe winter in 2007-2008, which depleted regional salt supplies, combined with the shutdown of salt mines in New Orleans. The lack of available salt forced the city to purchase a more costly salt mixture from a Colorado company that could be shipped by rail to Windsor, just north of Madison.

The salt mixture cost the city $120 per ton for 1,000 tons.

The street department did have to cut back on a few capital projects, like sealcoating some roads, to pay for this year's salt supply, Boll said.

Last year's purchase was a little more expensive, but at least the city was able to find a substitute that could be delivered, Boll said, after speaking with companies in Canada, New York and Pennsylvania last year.

"That was pretty much it, we could get it," he said, as to why the city spent a little more on salt per ton last winter.

The city had about 900 tons of salt on hand, and 200 tons arrived this week. The salt was ordered along with a state of Wisconsin salt purchase in April.

Last week's snowy weather allowed the city to have a rehearsal before today's expected snow hits; the street department used 50 tons of salt, Boll said.

Also, the department was out Monday spreading salt after some late Sunday snow coated city streets.

In Green County, the Highway Department ordered significantly less salt for 2009-2010 than it did in the previous year, because the 2007-2008 winter wiped the supplies out for the 2008-2009 winter, said Dick Marty, highway patrol superintendent.

Going into this fall, salt supplies were partially restored so the county, which purchases its salt on an as-needed basis from contractors, bought 7,000 tons for $73 per ton including shipping costs, Marty said.

In 2008, the county bought 12,000 tons of salt for $71 per ton.

The advantage of purchasing road salt on its own rather than working with the state is accessibility, he said. If the county had to order new shipments throughout the winter, there is less certainty on when the salt would arrive, Marty said.

As for this week's predicted snowfall and high winds, the county should be ready, Marty said.

"We have plenty, (of salt) and we will be on the roads at our designated hours," he said.

County crews will be out on state highways by 4 a.m., if needed, and county roads and highways by 5 a.m.

During last weeks' snowfall, the county used about 100 tons of salt, Marty said.

Regional emergency management personnel also were preparing Monday for the first predicted snowstorm of the season.

The National Weather Service (NWS) had a conference call with emergency management directors across the area in anticipation of today's winter storm.

Green County Emergency Management Project Coordinator Tanna McKeon said the NWS is calling for up to 12 inches of snow by midnight Wednesday. Some areas, she said, could get an inch or two more. Winds are expected to be between 20 and 30 mph with gusts up to 40 mph.

McKeon said there could be near white-out conditions in some areas. People who don't have to travel are advised to stay home, she said.

McKeon said the conference calls aren't uncommon and are being done whenever there's a chance for severe weather.

Statewide, emergency management personnel in Madison began monitoring the expected storm today.

The Emergency Operations Center (EOC) will monitor the storm from its offices at Joint Force Headquarters in Madison. The EOC includes representatives from the Wisconsin National Guard, State Patrol, state Department of Transportation Highways Department, National Weather Service and Wisconsin Emergency Management - all provide information to the EOC from their respective agencies, according to a statement Monday from the Wisconsin Department of Military Affairs.

In addition, the EOC is in contact with county emergency management offices and other first responders. This process is done to alert the EOC in the event of major power outages, highway traffic stoppages or other safety issues related to winter weather, allowing Wisconsin emergency management personnel to coordinate any needed support throughout the state, the statement said.