Janesville11.7°

Storm yields outages, accidents

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Ted Sullivan
December 13, 2010
— Drivers headed to work this morning could experience dangerous driving conditions after a weekend blizzard left snowdrifts and icy roads across southern Wisconsin.

"I would recommend folks get going extra early to work. It's going to be reduced speeds," said Ben Coopman, Rock County public works director. "It's probably pretty likely there will be blowing and drifting. Visibility along the roads will be challenging."


People can expect a bitter freeze today after the weekend snowstorm blasted Rock and Walworth counties. Today's high is predicted to be 7, with a low of 4 below zero. Wind chills could be minus 25. No additional snowfall is predicted until Wednesday.


Sunday's storm dropped 4 inches of snow and had powerful wind gusts, causing traffic accidents and runoffs, including one fatal crash along Interstate 90/39 near Milton.


Satellite television reception went dark for some customers, angering football fans. Damaged transmission lines caused power outages in parts of Rock County.


Highway 14 was closed from Janesville to the county line, Rock County sheriff's officials said. Multiple vehicles were stranded on the highway because of snowdrifts and blizzard conditions.


Highway 14 later opened from Janesville to Highway 140. Highway 14 remained closed late Sunday night from Highway 140 to the county line. Drivers had to use Interstate 43 to travel east.


Sheriff's officials said at least 10 runoffs and multiple car accidents were reported in rural parts of the county. They said whiteout conditions and snow-covered roads were prevalent. Several vehicles were in ditches.


"It's terrible. We advise people to stay home—period," Rock County Sheriff's Sgt. Wayne Hansen said. "It's quite a mess out there."


Janesville Police Lt. Rick Larson said the city also had accidents. He said most happened Saturday night.


"We've been really busy, but I don't think we had a lot of accidents," Larson said. "Probably a half dozen that I know of."


Law enforcement officials said it could have been worse but most drivers stayed off the roads because it was the weekend and warnings were issued early.


Many people at home, however, complained on social networks such as Facebook and Twitter that they couldn't watch parts of the Packers game because satellite reception failed. Their anger might or might not have been eased as the Packers lost 7-3 to the Detroit Lions.


Power outages were reported Sunday morning along Milton Avenue and Randolph Road, Larson said. The Wuthering Hills area also had blackouts.


Steve Schultz, Alliant Energy spokesman, said Rock County had 500 to 600 customers who lost power. He said several crews were out working on outages and patrolling lines to prevent problems. He said most problems were isolated.


The county public works director said plows on the Interstate had been going nonstop since Saturday morning. He said plows have been on county roads since Saturday, with eight-hour breaks Saturday and Sunday nights.


"Our guys are just going at it," Coopman said. "We've had our challenges."


Plow drivers found large drifts along east-west roads, he said. Many rural roads were down to one lane, although they were passable.


"When you get out in the country, it gets really wild," Coopman said.


Plow drivers had to be careful about placing salt and sand on the roads, he said. They did not want to create a wet surface that would become ice when the subzero temperatures arrived.


The snowstorm caused the National Weather Service in Sullivan to issue a blizzard warning until 6 p.m. Sunday for Rock County. The blizzard warning in Walworth County was dropped to a winter storm warning Sunday afternoon.


The weather can be blamed on a strong, low-pressure system that moved toward western Lake Erie while an arctic, high-pressure system pushed south from Canada, according to the weather service. The systems combined to create gusty, northerly winds.


Winds registered 20 to 30 mph, with gusts of 35 to 45 mph near Lake Michigan, the weather service reported.


The snow stopped in the afternoon.


Janesville officials declared a snow emergency Sunday morning. Parked vehicles had to be removed from streets and public parking lots for plowing. Drivers with vehicles on the road could have been ticketed $20.


Gov. Jim Doyle declared a state of emergency statewide as the snowfall spread across Wisconsin. The declaration was precautionary and allowed the Wisconsin National Guard to help local officials. The National Guard was not needed.


The Wisconsin Emergency Operations Center monitored the winter storm statewide.


The Wisconsin Department of Transportation advised against travel on any Wisconsin highway.



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