Waukesha County Highway Department preparing for what could be a 'long night'

NOW: Waukesha County Highway Department preparing for what could be a ’long night’

WAUKESHA, Wis. (CBS 58) -- After what's been a relatively mild winter for highway departments in southeastern Wisconsin, the freezing rain and sleet expected Monday night into Tuesday has crews on alert for what's expected to be a difficult night trying to keep the roads safe and drivable.

"Ice is about as bad as it gets," explained Hans Guderyon, highway patrol supervisor for Waukesha County's Department of Public Works. "It can go from zero to 60 in the blink of an eye with ice and you'll be behind the eight ball the entire time."

To try and stay ahead of the storm, crews were busy Monday morning and afternoon prepping trucks for the night ahead, filling them with fuel and salt. However, Guderyon says the storm presents a set of challenges for the crews.

"With ice, our best friend is the salt keeping it from sticking to the road, but being that it's probably washed off with a little rain first, then it will freeze almost instantly on the cold surface," Guderyon explained. "It's the point of freezing when we've got to be spot on and start spreading the salt to keep it adhering to the road and forming the ice on the roadways."

To do so, Guderyon says around 10 to 15 people will be driving around monitoring roadways starting around 5 p.m. Monday when the rain is expected to start. As temperatures continue to drop and slick spots form, that's when Guderyon says he expects the need to call in all 52 patrol workers to go out and salt the highways throughout the county.

"Staying with it, staying with salt, keeping active and keeping guys out there," Guderyon said. "It could be a full 24-hour day that those guys are out there salting, monitoring just to keep people safe."

While highway departments across the state prepare for the storm, it's important for drivers to prepare as well.

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation suggests having blankets and extra layers packed in your vehicle along with a phone charger, jumper cables, a first aid kit, water and snacks in case of emergency.

When driving, Guderyon says it's also important to stay alert for salt trucks and other emergency vehicles on the highways, and leave yourself plenty of time to get to your destination.

"Just know that if it's slippery, the salt takes a little bit of time to work and even if we do apply, it could be washed off in a matter of a half hour to an hour and it could freeze quickly," Guderyon warned. "Be safe, be patient. We're going to be out there. We'll do it our best but, ice is a different animal, so you all just got to take your time."

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