Brown County Public Works prepares for winter

A Brown County truck plows snow on S. Webster Avenue in De Pere, April 18, 2018, three days after Blizzard Evelyn. (WLUK/Eric Peterson)

BROWN COUNTY (WLUK) -- With winter's approach comes preparation for the storms to come, and Brown County Public Works Operations Manager Mike Piacenti is already busy preparing for the first flakes.

"It can take eight to ten weeks to get our entire fleet ready," Piacenti says.

Plows installed onto trucks, road salt stored and at the ready, and the latest way to melt hitting the roads: a homemade brine.

"The idea of putting brine with the salt," Piacenti told us, "is that it will activate the salt faster, clean the roads, and use a lot less salt."

Unlike road salt, they are not going to run out brine anytime soon thanks to numerous 6,500-gallon storage tanks ready to go for the winter season.

"Right now though, Wisconsin is the second-leading user of road salt in the United States, only behind New York," Piancenti said.

So using less salt will be helpful to our environment.

"We can reduce salt usage by 20 to 30 percent," said Brown County Public Works Director Paul Fontecchio, "because we are using less salt, less salt gets into the lakes and waterways."

So they are out learning the routes now, to be ready for the first storm, and to get drivers around them used to seeing them back on the roads.

"You really want to just give us the room to get over," PIacenti advised, "to do what we have to do -- to do our jobs."

Because storms like last April's Blizzard Evelyn can have them working round the clock.

"We had trucks that didn't shut off for a week straight," Fontecchio said. "As soon as a guy gets out, a guy gets in it, and that truck keeps going."

But it's not always the big storms that cause the most concern.

"That one-inch snowstorm that goes for eight hours, because it's dropping a little bit of snow down there, making it slippery," said Piacenti. "People think 'it's only an inch, I can drive 70 miles per hour on it' when actually they can't."

And while they try to keep the roads as clear as possible, persistent precipitation can cause problems.

"It takes an hour and a half or two hours to make a circuit," says Fontecchio, "so if I plow this piece of Highway 41 right now, it's going to be an hour and a half until I get back to it. When it's snowing at two inches per hour, there's going to be snow on the road. You do the best you can with the resources you have."

So let's give them space, and let them help keep you safe through the upcoming winter driving season.

FOX 11 meteorologists are busy preparing for winter -- and helping you prepare. The list of winter storm names was revealed last month. Keep watching FOX 11 all week for coverage of Wisconsin's Winter Awareness Week.

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