February 03, 2023

We must be built different

The newsroom now has another Wisconsin-native with the hire of our new reporter, Erin Henze.

For me, it’s a relief to have someone understand my confusion with Iowa. Yesterday she asked what ham balls are after seeing an ad from A&G about their daily specials.

It takes me back to when I moved here four years ago. I remember asking someone, “What’s a SWCC?” when they mentioned something about the college.

There’s one thing us Wisconsin people hear a lot when we complain about the winter temperatures - “Oh you’re from Wisconsin, you must be used to it.” While we are used to it, we definitely don’t all like it.

That being said, Erin already shares my confusion for the decisions to close schools and businesses for a little snow.

Now I’m not saying they shouldn’t close. I’m just saying in Wisconsin, we close for nothing. Erin attended UW-Stevens Point and I attended UW-Eau Claire. About two hours apart, the universities are both in the northern half of Wisconsin.

In Northern Wisconsin, snow is a different animal than it is here. US climate data averages Creston’s average yearly snowfall to be 27 inches. My first winter in Eau Claire saw 74 inches, down from the previous year’s 83.

Erin and I shared the same anecdote that in the past 30 years, our universities each only closed once due to inclement weather. That one time? It was a governor-mandated closing of public colleges.

That first year in Eau Claire was the worst winter I’ve ever been through. We set a record with 30 consecutive days where the temperature never reached 0 degrees.

The campus is split by “the hill.” If you saw it, you’d understand. Upper campus hosts the dorms while lower campus is where the academic buildings are. It was a half mile walk next to the Chippewa River to get from my dorm to class.

With windchill, we had a week with lows down to 60 below. Now don’t get me wrong, students complained. Students argued they could die from frostbite. But classes continued as normal, and we all trudged through the snow to class.

To make it up to us, they kept the academic buildings near 80 degrees. This ended up making the situation worse as we had to strip half our clothes off once we got to class.

I personally wore red and white polka dot footie pajamas under my clothes every day for a week. That meant in class, I sat there with a sweatshirt and sweatpants over footie pajamas in an 80 degree classroom.

Knock on wood, but I’ve never been in a snow or ice related accident. And I’ve driven in a lot of snow, ice and sleet in some truly horrible cars. My Saturn could barely clear 6 inches of snow and my Fusion slid like I was driving on ice skates instead of tires.

Driving in the snow sucks, I get that. I drove from Minneapolis to Creston in a blizzard one year and it took me eight hours. But it boggles my mind how many people forget everything.

Drive slower and stop sooner. That’s all. I remember driving home from working at the mall in Eau Claire in feet of snow. When I first came to Creston, I remember my U.S. Cellular employees asking if we could close the store every time we got more than an inch of snow. At first, I thought it was just a desire to not work, but I’ve realized it’s a culture here.

Any amount of winter precipitation has everyone freaking out.

Here’s what I will say — I have never lived in a place with roads plowed as bad as they are in Creston. That doesn’t make them impassable, but it certainly adds to the winter driving hesitancy.

For a city so concerned with the revitalization of uptown, the absolute poor job taking care of the roads in the winter deters patrons from shopping at our small businesses. Why would I fight through piles of snow in the middle of Adams Street when I can go to Walmart on Taylor or Sumner streets that are plowed by the state?

The state proves these roads can be plowed better than they are. Simply using salt or gravel would make a world of a difference. As I sit here looking out my window at the pile of snow in the middle of Adams, I think of my Saturn and how turning into Creston Automotive would be simply impossible.

It’s time our city puts its money where its mouth is when it comes to taking care of our local uptown businesses.

Cheyenne Roche

CHEYENNE ROCHE

Originally from Wisconsin, Cheyenne has a journalism and political science degree from UW-Eau Claire and a passion for reading and learning. She lives in Creston with her husband and their two little dogs.