HAZEL GREEN—Blizzard conditions throughout the area on Sunday night through Monday morning left 131 vehicles stranded in Grant County as snowdrifts covered the roadways, making them impassable.
As vehicles were unable to make it through the drifting snow and white-out conditions on Sunday evening, local fire departments were called to rescue people from vehicles stuck in the snow. Many of those responding were using their personal 4-wheel-drive vehicles to rescue people.
Hazel Green Fire Chief John Berning said his fire department alone collected 58 people from the roads around the Hazel Green area and took them to the fire station to wait out the storm.
“We’re pretty fortunate we have a nice fire station,” Berning said. “We were able to use the blankets and other items from the mass casualties trailer we have in the station.”
Berning said the department’s first rescue situation took place just after 5 p.m. on Sunday. They were still getting calls for help at 2 a.m. on Monday.
“We used the fire department’s Bobcat and Gator to plow a path to rescue people,” Berning said. “If the vehicle was really stuck, we tried to move it off the roadway. We were only taking people to the fire station, not to any other location.”
Berning said the fire auxiliary provided food and snacks for those staying at the fire station Sunday night.
“There were a lot of local donations,” Berning said. “Everybody pulled together. It was appreciated.”
Monday morning the Grant County Sheriff’s Department requested license plate numbers from all of the vehicles people were rescued from. The fire department also had to be accountable for everyone who stayed at the fire station. On Monday, each stranded vehicle was towed to the Dollar General parking lot in Cuba City where the owner could pick it up.
“In Hazel Green the roads weren’t bad, but in the country it was dangerous,” Berning said. “There was one accident that was pretty bad. The person was rear-ended, got out of the vehicle and then was struck by another vehicle.”
Berning said in white-out situations and after dark, people should stay in their vehicles if in an accident or stuck in the snow to prevent injuries and help responding agencies make a safe rescue.
At one point Sunday night, all the main highways heading into Platteville were closed, along with Hwy. 151 from Platteville to Dubuque, and Hwys. 80/81 south of Platteville, after Grant and Lafayette county highway trucks were pulled off county highways. Hwy. 61 from Potosi to Lancaster was also closed.
“The guys who went out in that storm, hats off to them,” Berning said.
Benton, Cuba City and Southwestern schools were closed Monday and Tuesday because of the extreme weather conditions. Classes at UW–Platteville were canceled Monday, and Southwest Wisconsin Technical College classes were canceled Monday night.
Tuesday morning’s low of 17 below zero missed the record low for Jan. 28.
Unlike the first polar vortex visit on Jan. 6-7, a significant warm-up isn’t in the forecast. What is in the forecast is more snow — 1 to 2 inches for Thursday, according to the National Weather Service.
Steve Prestegard of the Platteville Journal contributed to this article.