After a Thursday of icy rain, sliding vehicles and shuttered schools, area residents are bracing for a deep freeze Friday that will turn leftover puddles into skating rinks.
National Weather Service forecasters predict a high temperature near 9 degrees Friday with wind chills of minus 10 to minus 20, pushed by brisk west winds gusting up to 30 mph. Friday night's low drops to minus 5 degrees with wind chills of minus 10 to minus 15, the weather service said.
It was unclear at press time Thursday if school districts would close schools for a second consecutive day.
Area school districts are dealing with a record number of snow days this season. The Janesville School District has closed school six days so far, and the winter is far from over.
However, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction has already told superintendents that it will not waive the required number of instructional hours, which would have given districts more flexibility on ways to make up for lost school time.
Thursday presented a safety issue as freezing rain made travel treacherous even for salt trucks.
Three or four Rock County salters went off the road Thursday morning, with two of them needing tow trucks to get out, said county Director of Public Works Duane Jorgenson.
"We were getting calls from people frustrated that we weren’t on top of it better this morning, but we had freezing rain around 3:30 to 4 a.m., so even if we were up all night, if we're going to get that, we're going to be fighting," Jorgenson said Thursday morning.
"That morning commute was tough," Jorgenson added. "It's just one of those storms that—I don’t know how you manage that differently. The timing of it beat us up pretty good.
"It's a slow go," he said. "Our trucks are heavy, which is good, but ice is ice, and we slide around, too."
The on-duty supervisor at the Rock County 911 Communications Center said emergency responders had handled four injury crashes, nine non-injury crashes and 15 run-off accidents between midnight and 7:10 a.m. Thursday.
Calls came in from all corners of the county, the supervisor said.
"It's literally everywhere. I can't think of an area that we haven't had a call on," she said.
More than 250 customers in southeastern Walworth County were without power at noon Thursday, Alliant Energy's outage map indicated, and We Energies reported scattered outages in areas surrounding Elkhorn and in northeastern parts of Walworth County.
The Green County Sheriff's Office reported dozens of slide-offs and stuck vehicles, particularly in rural areas of the county. Officials said first responders and salt trucks would be delayed responding to emergencies because of the conditions.
Officials across the area warned residents to stay home if possible.
Nobody had visited the emergency department at SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital-Janesville for falls or other weather-related injuries as of 11 a.m. Thursday, said Stacey Woodman, director of the emergency department and intensive care unit.
Mercyhealth Hospital and Trauma Center, Janesville, and Mercyhealth urgent care facilities saw “more than a handful” of falls from slippery conditions Thursday, said Trish Reed, spokeswoman for the health system.
Farm & Fleet in Janesville sold out of sidewalk salt and other products intended for such weather Thursday morning, but the store was selling water softener salt, a customer service worker said.
Dave's Ace Hardware in Milton reported on its Facebook page that it had sold all its salt, more than 800 50-pounds bags.
Janesville salters have been at work nearly around the clock for the last two days and will work into Friday to catch up, said John Whitcomb, operations director for city public works.
Whitcomb said the city has enough salt for now, but when salt is in demand across a wide area, temporary supply problems crop up.
Whitcomb said more snow is in the forecast for early next week.
"It's going to be bad for a while," he said, adding with a Wisconsin wintry mix of humor and truth: "Maybe 'til April."