Fine line divided ice, snow in southern Wisconsin storm
The good news: There’s no significant snowfall in the forecast.
The bad news: Normal or below-normal temperatures won’t hasten the melting of ice and snow coating southern Wisconsin.
The mix of freezing rain, sleet and snow that fell most of Tuesday slowed travel and closed schools for thousands of children.
The weather system produced sleet and freezing rain in southern Wisconsin and snow just to the north, falling at times in huge flakes that quickly accumulated.
Janesville’s precipitation was primarily in the form of rain and freezing rain, which clung to roads, driveways and trees.
“Melting it is going to be a problem,” said Bob McMahon, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Sullivan. “Temperatures will be at or below normal into next week. Most highs will range from 25 to 32 or 33 degrees.”
While that may be bad news for sagging tree limbs, the good news is that there’s no significant snowfall is in forecast that will add to what has been the snowiest start to December in Janesville since 1948. City officials reported that overnight plowing operations cleared the majority of streets in Janesville.
McMahon said there’s a chance for flurries tonight and again Saturday, when a system moves up the Ohio River Valley and puts southern Wisconsin on its northern fringe.
Through Tuesday, Janesville recorded 16.01 inches of snow, nearly 3 inches more than in 1994, when the city had 13.01 inches of snow between Dec. 1 and Dec. 11.
As for Tuesday, Chris Franks, another National Weather Service meteorologist, said the statewide precipitation “switched back and forth from freezing rain, sleet and snow for much of the day.”
“We’ve seldom seen these changes for this long,” he added.
Milwaukee Public Schools, the state’s largest district, canceled classes for its 85,000 students. Some school bus drivers couldn’t make it to their buses, MPS spokeswoman Roseann St. Aubin said.
Other school districts calling off classes included Janesville, Waukesha, Jefferson, Fort Atkinson, Watertown, Racine, Kenosha, Elkhorn, East Troy and Random Lake.
Hundreds of donors canceled appointments at the BloodCenter of Wisconsin because of the storm, spokeswoman Crystal McNeal said. With 800 donations needed per day to maintain its supply, the bank was asking people to quickly reschedule to avoid a shortage.
By the time the storm tapered off Tuesday afternoon, Kenosha, Racine and Monroe had received more than .6 inch of freezing rain or sleet, while 5 inches or more of snow had fallen at Madison, Jefferson and Oconomowoc. Cottage Grove in Dane County reported a 7-inch snowfall.
Milwaukee’s official total at Mitchell International Airport south of the city was 3.2 inches, but much more than that fell in northern parts of the Milwaukee area.
The forecast called for partly cloudy skies Wednesday and only light snow in parts of the state Wednesday night through Friday. The weekend should be cloudy but dry with highs in the 20s.
Gov. Jim Doyle declared Tuesday as Snowplow Driver Appreciation Day, saying Wisconsin’s economy depends on clear highways. All state residents should reflect on the importance of the state’s 2,000 to 3,000 plow drivers and drive safely around them, the governor said.
The Wisconsin State Patrol and police departments in southern Wisconsin reported a number of cars off the road and a few accidents. But temperatures hovering around the freezing mark and salt applied to roads before the precipitation began improved travel conditions, Franks said.
Lynette Lamblez, 49, an inventory controller from Waukesha, said her bus ride to work took 30 minutes longer Tuesday but she was grateful for the snowfall.
“Four weeks ago, it was 60 degrees out,” she said. “I really think it’s beautiful.”
Laura Petrie Anderson, 40, of Shorewood, did not think to check whether her daughter’s school was closed. After she arrived and found the doors shuttered, she brought Grace, 8, to spend the day at her law firm.
“I was a little dismayed that school was closed because I’ve been off at seminars for two days and I had a full plate at work,” she said. “But she’s been really helpful, putting stamps and labels on our firm’s holiday cards all morning.”
Except for several brief runway closures, Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee remained open Tuesday but many flights were delayed or canceled, spokesman Ryan McAdams said.
The weather slowed the National Basketball Association’s Milwaukee Bucks, who canceled Tuesday’s practice because they were delayed in Sacramento, Calif., where they suffered a 96-93 loss Monday night to the Kings.
Dale Floyd, 40, a Racine real estate agent, said he was more concerned about the real estate market than the day’s gloomy weather reports.
“It seems like the other states are getting it a lot worse,” he said while waiting for an appointment at a downtown Milwaukee coffee shop. “Plus, we’re used to it here.”