Janesville80.4°

Blowing snow turns area travel dangerous

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Gazette Staff and Associated Press
December 24, 2007

At least one person was sent to a hospital in Rock County and at least two people were killed in the state after snow, ice and high winds created blinding road conditions over the weekend.


A semitrailer truck ran into a straight truck on Interstate 90/39 south of Delavan Drive around 5:20 p.m. Sunday, blocking traffic in the southbound lanes.


At least one person was transported for medical attention after the collision, a spokeswoman with the Wisconsin State Patrol said.


Dispatchers from Rock, Jefferson, Dane and Green counties reported several runoffs and accidents Sunday night.


“It’s happening everywhere,” the Wisconsin State Patrol spokeswoman said.


Snow swirled violently on Janesville roads and piled up in drifts. Winds averaged about 30 mph, with gusts up to 50 mph, said Steve Hentz with the National Weather Service.


“Everything is just an ice rink out there,” Rock County Sheriff’s Sergeant Steve Selby said Sunday.


Conditions were similar throughout the state.


Sara Spohn, 23, Arcadia, died Saturday afternoon in Galesville after she lost control of her vehicle on a snow-covered road, crossed the centerline and was struck by an oncoming pickup truck, according to the Trempealeau County Sheriff’s Department. Two people in the other vehicle had minor injuries.


The snow started in that area Saturday afternoon and has received more than 10 inches since then, according to the National Weather Service.


Joanne Ditsch, 40, Madison, died Sunday after an accident on Highway 51 in Dunn Township, according to a news release from the Dane County Sheriff’s Office.


An SUV driven by Truy Q. Truong, 48, Stoughton, crashed into Ditsch’s car after Ditsch lost control of the car, causing it to cross the centerline. Truong received minor injuries, and Ditsch’s 16-year-old daughter sustained serious but non-life threatening injuries, the release said.


More than 11,000 power customers, including about 800 in Janesville, were without power at some point from freezing rain, ice, gusty wind or heavy snow from the storm that started hitting the state Saturday.


Winter storm warnings were posted for parts of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan.


Bill Borghoff, a meteorologist intern at the National Weather Service, said the storm came from the southern Plains Saturday afternoon and was fueled by a drop in temperatures early Sunday. It brought rain and snow starting Saturday, with some parts of north central and southwestern Wisconsin receiving 8 to 12 inches of snow. Those areas could get another 3 to 5 inches by the end of Sunday, he said.


The Madison area had three to four hours of freezing rain early Sunday, he said.


“It’s quite a mess out there,” Borghoff said.


A wind advisory was issued Sunday for southeastern Wisconsin. Gusts reached 60 mph in the Milwaukee area, according to meteorologist intern Chris Franks.


Richard Anderson, owner of the Branding Iron Steakhouse in Hurley, said the area had received 8 to 10 inches of snow by Sunday afternoon and typically gets 200 to 300 inches a snow a year.


“From what you can see it’s windy and blowing and snowing – all at the same time,” he said.


Area businesses love the snow because it brings in people to downhill ski and snowmobile, he said.


The Grant and Dane County sheriff’s departments along with the State Patrol office in DeForest issued press releases saying there had been many slide-offs and crashes due to slippery roads. They advised drivers to stay off the roads. Dane County Sheriff’s Lt. Dan Bolch said they’ve had at least three people injured, with one seriously.


“Visibility is near zero in some areas,” according to the State Patrol release.


Alliant Energy Spokesman Scott Reigstad said 5,500 people or more were without power in southern and central Wisconsin early Sunday and all but 800 were restored by the afternoon.


About 800 Alliant customers on Janesville’s far east side lost power around 2 a.m. Sunday. Power had been restored to the Janesville customers by mid-morning, Reigstad said.


We Energies spokesman Barry McNulty said about 3,000 people were out briefly Saturday night due to rain pushing road salt into their substations. Sunday’s winds caused about 1,700 throughout the state to be without power.


Lisa Prunty, spokeswoman for Wisconsin Public Service, said about 1,000 mostly northern Wisconsin customers had power outages starting around 7 a.m. due to ice, rain, snow and wind gusts of 50 mph. They have been restoring power in less than 30 minutes to most people, she said.


Hentz expected winds to start dying early this morning in Janesville. He predicted winds of 10 to 20 mph today.



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