Winter hits with a vengeance

January 31, 2019

Three more inches of dry, fluffy snow was expected Monday afternoon in the Dodge and Jefferson County areas -- this after the region was hit with 4-6 inches from Sunday into Monday morning.

Snowfall totals for Sunday into Monday looked like this in terms of inches after a check with the National Weather Service: Watertown, 6.0; Fort Atkinson, 4.5; Oconomowoc, 4.5; Sullivan, 5.0; Lake Mills, 4.5; Waterloo, 4.3; Jefferson 5.2; Horicon 6.6; Beaver Dam, 6.0 and Brownsville, 7.2.

National Weather Service Meteorologist Sarah Marquardt said Monday morning another round of snow was expected Monday afternoon that would hit the area with 2-3 more inches of dry, fluffy snow. This later band was expected to end around 4 p.m.

The snow expected Monday afternoon, according to Marquardt, was going to cause problems for motorists because it would be of the blowing and drifting variety.

“Along with this snow we will be having gusty winds in Dodge and Jefferson counties,” she said. “We could see gusts of 30 mph from the north and that will cause drifting problems.”

As if all this was not enough of a headache, the now-infamous “Polar Vortex” will be sending another chunk of potentially record-setting cold air down into Wisconsin just as soon as people get their driveways and sidewalks shoveled again.

“The temperature now is 21 degrees and that is the warmest it will be until Friday,” Marquardt said. “We won’t be above zero until Friday.”

Today will be a downright dangerous day to be outside with wind chills of 30 below zero -- and that will be during the daylight hours. Wednesday is forecast to be a record-setter, sporting a 50 below zero wind chill. Thursday’s ambient air temperature is forecast to be -14 below zero with a 40 below zero wind chill.

“Thursday will be cold, with Friday’s high being 16 degrees,” Marquardt said.

The weekend will offer a respite, when temperature reach into the upper 30′s.

Talking about the situation the Watertown area is experiencing, Marquardt said this unique weather system originated at the North Pole and traveled down through Canada to hit the Badger State.

“This is a high-pressure system and we just want people to know that with this cold air can come a great danger of frostbite on any exposed skin,” Marquardt said.

The City of Watertown Police Department did not be put a snow emergency in place Monday night, but said there will be one scheduled for the central business district this evening.

Police reported, as of mid-morning Monday, there were no major accidents, just a few motor vehicle run-offs with no damage and no injuries.

Brian Udovich of the Jefferson County Highway Department spoke with the Daily Times and provided an update on how things are going on his county’s highways. He said the past week has been a challenge, but intimated we might be getting a little soft after having experienced such mild winters in recent years.

“We live in Wisconsin and 30 years ago we were used to this, but the last few years I think we may have forgotten what winter can be,” he said, adding November and December were very mild and might have lulled people into a false sense of security. “It was raining last year at this time.”

Udovich said the county’s brine system is becoming a model for other counties in the state and there have been multiple visitors from other jurisdictions to see how it works in terms of keeping the roads treated.

Udovich noted the dry, fluffy snow might be good for people who shovel, but it can create problems for county plow drivers. When the winds kick up, this type of snow moves about more easily, causing drifts on highways that have to be addressed.

Watertown Street Superintendent Randy Franks said despite this snowstorm being the second in a week’s time his employees are doing well.

“Their spirits are up and they’re doing wonderful,” he said. “All of the employees are doing what it takes to get the job done.”

Franks said his crew of 15 trucks and three loaders with plows were out at 3 a.m. Monday.

“We’re going to see this storm to the end,” Franks said Monday afternoon. “We hope to be done by six this evening or as soon as it quits. We will then clean up the streets as best as we can.”

He said his employees will take to the downtown area today by 6:30 in the morning or earlier if the snow begins to blow and drift.

Franks said his department is only salting the areas where it is necessary, which include the heavy traffic areas such as intersections and hills.

He said once the brutal chill sets in his department will only use salt if it is absolutely necessary.

“Once you get below 15 degrees you have to use 3-4 times the amount of salt you would normally and you won’t be getting the results you want,” he said. “We will just keep at it.”

Dodge County Highway employees are doing the same Monday -- just keeping at it.

Dodge County Highway Department some of his crews began at midnight plowing the class one roads which include Interstate 41, U.S. Highway 151, state Highway 60 from state Highway 67 to Hartford, state Highway 26 from state Highway 60 to Watertown and state Highway 33 from Beaver Dam to the east county line.

Dodge County Patrol Superintendent Nate Minnig, who supervises the western portion of the county’s plowing operations, said the remainder of the crew began at 4 a.m.

“They’re doing their best to keep to clear the snow. It’s light and real dry,” he said at noon Monday. “The snow blows real easy and it’s blowing at a pretty good clip right now.”

Minnig said the plow drivers are not dropping any salt on the highways and roadways right now.

“If we were to put the salt down the roads will get wet and the blowing snow will stick to it,” Minnig said. “The snow will just build up and get worse.”

He said until the winds die down the plow crews will keep scrapping away at the snow.

“If the winds continue blowing like they are we may not be able to put any salt down at all,” Minnig said. “We are just trying to keep the roads as clear as we can for motorists.”

He said crews got an early start on the roads today.

Dodge County Patrol Superintendent Joe Lechner, who supervises the eastern part of the Dodge County, echoed the same.

“It’s going as good as can be expected for us,” Lechner said. “The guys are fighting the wind. It’s pretty strong out there.”

He said they are doing the best they can with the weather conditions.

Dodge County Highway Commissioner Brian Field reminds drivers this particular storm and the wind that’s accompanying it is creating some slippery conditions.

“We don’t want to see drivers become complacent if they see a dry road,” Field said. “There may be a big drift where drivers can’t see it and all of a sudden the road is covered in snow, which will definitely cause some problems.”

The weather is so poor Gov. Tony Evers has declared a state of emergency for the entire state of Wisconsin in response to the ongoing winter storm and the pending dangerous wind chills that will blanket the state the rest of the week.

“I’m concerned about the safety and well-being of our residents as this major storm and bitter cold moves in,” Evers said. “I want to make sure all state assets are available, including the Wisconsin National Guard if needed, to help communities across the state and keep people warm and safe.”

The Governor’s Executive Order directed all state agencies to assist if there are any emergency response and recovery efforts associated with the snowstorm and cold. The order also gives Wisconsin’s Adjutant General Don Dunbar the authority to call to active duty soldiers and airmen of the Wisconsin National Guard to support local emergency responders if needed. This could include security, response and recovery missions.

State offices remain open to the public and to all state employees. State agencies will follow their inclement weather policies.

Dodge and Jefferson County offices, including the court systems, were closed on Monday, but all 24 hour operations such as the Dodge County Sheriff’s Office, jail and the Clearview campus are not affected by the closure and will maintain their regular schedule.

The Dodgeland, Hustisford and Watertown School Districts were also closed Monday.

With the below zero temperatures forecasted throughout this week, the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection is warning pet and livestock owners to protect their animals during extreme cold.

“The most important part is preserving the lives of your animals, but preparing now can also save you time and money on health-related costs,” said Dr. Yvonne Bellay, DATCP humane program veterinarian. “Animals can suffer from hypothermia, frostbite, and other cold weather injuries. Harsh conditions can also weaken their immune systems leaving them vulnerable to illness.”

Owners should focus on three key areas:

-- Food: Outdoor animals will need more food than usual and at good quality to produce body heat. As a general rule, nutrition requirements increase about 1 percent for every degree the temperature falls below 20 degrees. For horses, nutritional needs increase at temperatures below 45 degrees.

-- Shelter: For large animals, provide a dry place to get out of the wind, such as a windbreak or three-sided shelter. Smaller animals will need an enclosed space to better retain body heat. Make sure other buildings do not deflect wind or snow into the shelter. Keep animals dry and provide bedding to help insulate them from frostbite.

-- Water: Provide access to fresh water daily - frozen streams or snow require an animal to use body heat to melt it. Stock tank heaters and frost-proof waterers can help protect water from freezing. If you do not have a heated bowl, fill the bowl with lukewarm water at least twice a day.

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