A new report ( Download PDF ) is critical of the State Patrol's response to a major traffic back-up earlier this month on Interstate 39/90 near Madison.
Heavy snowfall on February 6th left over a thousand motorists stranded on a stretch of Interstate spanning Dane and Rock Counties. Wisconsin National Guard Brigadier General Don Dunbar says the response to the crisis was "ineffective." In a review requested by the Governor, Dunbar says he found the State Patrol did respond to the situation eventually, but was slow to recognize that an emergency existed.
The report provides a timeline of the response, showing it took several hours for officials to admit there was even a situation. It notes reports from officers in the field identifying the back-up, but officials refusing to close the Interstate or divert traffic.
Dunbar says poor communication between responding agencies also slowed the response. The report says the State Patrol was ineffective in its role an incident commander, and also notes that other state agencies failed to respond quickly as well. It does offer praise for Dane and Rock County emergency responders for trying to get aid out to stranded motorists.
Dunbar says officials were prepared when the storm began, but underestimated how serious the situation was becoming as the snow continued to fall. The report shows some emergency operation centers considered shutting down in the early evening, since they still did not know about the situation on the Interstate.
Dunbar's report to the Governor recommends the state re-examine it's emergency response policies and consider a method to close the Interstate during future storms. Dunbar says the state can learn a valuable lesson from the incident.