Winter storm wallops area
Winter finally arrived with a vengeance last weekend as a blizzard dumped over a foot of snow on Merrill and surrounding areas, according to the National Weather Service in Green Bay.
In Lincoln County, 14.7 inches of snow fell in a 72 hour period, with most coming on Saturday, which caused numerous cancellations and reschedules. Winds in the 20-30 mph range – with gusts over 40 mph – on Sunday compounded the problem by blowing the snow into drifts, further complicating travel. At the height of the storm, the NWS said thundersnow was reported in several east-central portions of the state.
And while Lincoln County was hit hard, Taylor County saw almost double the accumulation with Medford recording 18 inches in 24 hours. The 13.5 inches of snow measured in Wausau was the biggest December snowstorm ever in that city, according to the NWS.
The snow developed as low pressure moved from Wyoming to southern Lake Michigan. Strong winds, in response to the pressure difference between Arctic high pressure over southern Canada and the low pressure storm system. This created severe blowing snow and blizzard conditions across the state, with the strongest winds occurring near Lake Michigan. Winds gusting well over 60 mph were reported in northern Door County.
Governor Jim Doyle declared a state of emergency at 7 p.m. Saturday night in all 72 counties in the state and called to active duty units of the Wisconsin National Guard to assist local governments where needed, although no requests for guard assistance was made.
Staff from the Department of Military Affairs, Wisconsin Emergency Management, Department of Transportation, and State Patrol manned the state’s Emergency Operations Center Saturday night through Monday.
The Wisconsin Department of Transportation and State Patrol also advised motorists against traveling over the weekend. Numerous slide offs and other accidents occurred throughout the state as falling temperatures made clearing the blowing snow from the highways extremely difficult.
Most area residents heeded the call to stay off the roads. The Lincoln County Sheriff’s Department reported nine slide in’s and three crashes during the 48 hour storm. No injuries in any of the crashes were reported.
Falling temperatures on Monday and Tuesday made the digging out even more difficult. The high on Monday was in the single digits with wind chills below zero. Tuesday’s air temperature was -23 degrees at 8 a.m. with an eventual high of 14 degrees. A 30 percent chance of snow is predicted for Thursday.