Snow triggers storm of cash register activity
JANESVILLE What do you get when you cross a meat sale with the threat of 3 to 5 inches of snow?
"The perfect storm," said Rob Terry, manager of Daniel's Sentry on Janesville's east side.
Terry's store was one of several that benefited from Thursday's snowfall, which by 10 p.m. had amounted to about 2 inches in downtown Janesville.
"We started to get busy on Wednesday," Terry said, referring to the day when the high temperature hit 53, creating a waiting line at the city's municipal golf course.
"Of course, part of that could have been the 20-percent-off-all-the-meat-you-could-fit-in-a-bag sale we had," Terry said, adding that the day's overall sales were probably 30 percent better than a typical Wednesday.
Typically, the store is busy before a predicted storm but slows during the actual weather event. Thursday, however, was different. Sentry was busy throughout the day, he said.
Despite forecasts for the season's first significant snowfall, some people still needed to see it before they believed it.
By late Thursday morning, shoppers were dropping into Harris Ace Hardware on River Street for the Four S's: shovels, sand, salt and scrapers.
"We've had quite a few people in buying those items," said Larry Pfaff, one of the store's managers. "It started later in the morning and picked up quite a bit over the noon hour."
Because Thursday's snowfall was the first of the season, Pfaff said the store was still well stocked with supplies to react to Mother Nature.
Historically, motorists have a more difficult time reacting to the season's first snowfall.
Local authorities, however, reported relatively few problems.
Janesville police were dispatched to about 12 crashes or runoffs by late afternoon, but fewer problems were reported on rural roads covered by the sheriff's office, said Brian Becker, supervisor at the Rock County Communications Center.
The exception was just before 7 p.m. when four snowmobilers crashed into open water on the southwest side of Lake Koshkonong near Highwood Drive in Albion Township in Dane County, Becker said. First responders from Dane, Jefferson and Rock counties were dispatched. A dive team was dispatched, but the snowmobilers were out of the water and on firm ice before rescuers arrived, according to Rock County Communications Center data. An airboat was deployed, and the first two riders were out off the lake at 7:34 p.m. All four riders as well as the first responders were out at 7:49 p.m., Becker said.
Several injury accidents were reported on rural roads and interstates throughout the day, but none resulted in serious injuries, Becker said. Plenty of drivers slid into ditches without injury, he said.
Some of those drivers' vehicles could end up at Utzig CARSTAR Collision Service Center on Janesville's west side.
"Our business definitely follows the weather," said owner Al Utzig. "Whenever the first snowstorm happens, people just aren't as prepared with their driving.
"The same thing happens with late spring storms, after people have gotten comfortable with dry roads for awhile. And it happens with rain, too."
Utzig said he never celebrates the first snowstorm and drivers' misfortunes, but he did say he expects to see some dinged-up vehicles coming into his shop in the next few days.
"I've been keeping track of estimates for 25 or 30 years, and December was our lowest in 10 years," he said. "We still had a good December, we've got work, but we typically see an influx after the first big storm."
The snow started falling a short time after daybreak Thursday. By mid-afternoon, a couple inches were on the ground.
Forecasters were calling for a total of 3 to 5 inches of snow. Snowfall was expected to end this morning, according to the National Weather Service.
The weekend forecast calls for partly sunny skies and highs in the 20s.