Southwest Wisconsin did not have much snowfall in the winter of 2011–12.
The winter of 2012–13 got off to a roaring start last week, with 14 inches of snow and 40-mph winds forcing road closings and school cancellations Thursday and Friday, giving students an early start on their winter break.
The National Weather Service’s La Crosse office reported that Platteville got 14 inches of snow and Union got 13.3 inches of snow. Estimates from the National Weather Service in Milwaukee were even higher in Lafayette and Iowa counties, 14 to 15 inches.
The NWS’ Milwaukee office estimated the snowfall was the equivalent of 1 to 1.5 inches of rain over Wednesday night and Thursday.
The NWS’ La Crosse office reported a peak wind gust of 44 mph in Platteville at 11:55 a.m. The NWS’ Milwaukee office reported a peak wind gust of 44 mph in southwestern Iowa County.
The resulting wind-blown snow resulted in warnings from the Grant and Lafayette county sheriff’s departments to avoid driving Wednesday night through Thursday. Blizzard warnings were in effect for 24 hours starting Wednesday midnight in Grant County, and Thursday from noon to midnight in Lafayette and Iowa counties.
Classes and events in the Platteville, Iowa–Grant, Belmont and Potosi school districts were called off the night before for Thursday and Friday. Potosi schools were previously scheduled to have no classes Friday. Classes resume Jan. 2 after winter break ends.
About half of downtown businesses were open Thursday during the height of the storm. The Platteville Municipal Building closed at noon, and won’t be open until today, between being closed on Friday, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. The Platteville Senior Center and meal site was closed Thursday and Friday.
The City of Platteville Street Department reported “near-whiteout conditions” on the outskirts of Platteville and on East Business 151 near Progressive Parkway Thursday afternoon.
Other than the three roads that have 24-hour plowing — U.S. 18, U.S. 151 and Wisconsin 80 south of 151 — plows were pulled off Grant County roads Thursday at 6 p.m., returning at 4 a.m. Plows also were pulled off Platteville streets at 6 p.m.
Emergency responders spent part of Thursday night looking for two people lost in the storm.
The Lafayette County Sheriff’s Department was called to Patch Road in the Town of Gratiot around 9 p.m. for a report of a person walking in a field. The report said the person had gotten stuck in a car, and was being helped by a snowmobile rider until the snowmobile also became stranded.
The two victims were found and taken to Memorial Hospital of Lafayette County in Darlington for treatment of injuries. The sheriff’s department was assisted by the Gratiot Fire Department, Gratiot First Responders and Rural Medical Ambulance.
Platteville police dealt with fewer and less serious problems during the storm, with no reports of crashes. Police calls included six parking complaints, five stuck vehicles, four disabled vehicles, two reports of snowmen (“four to five” in one case) being built in the middle of the street, one complaint of snow covering stoplights on Chestnut Street at Main Street and at Pine Street, one report of a telephone or cable TV line down on a city street, and one complaint of a snowball thrown at a car.
Alliant Energy reported power outages in Iowa County, some of the 9,400 estimated customers without power at the height of the storm.
The snow ended Thursday night, but because of the winds, many rural roads were only one lane wide, including parts of Wisconsin 11 and Wisconsin 81 in Lafayette County, into Friday.
The most unusual aspect of the snowstorm may have been this Facebook announcement from UW–Platteville police Friday morning:
“Our department has noted concerns from students involving the UW–Platteville Heating Plant. Reports of an explosion were unfounded; however, there was a large steam release. The heating plant is not damaged or ‘missing its roof.’ We have spoken with the Staff in charge of the heating plant and everything is fine. There is no need to be alarmed.”