Wind, Snow, Ice Cause Problems In Wisconsin

Monday, December 24th 2007, 8:41 am
By: News On 6

MILWAUKEE (AP) _ Highways were hazardous for holiday travelers Sunday and thousands of homes had no electricity in Wisconsin as a storm blustered through with heavy snow and howling wind.

At least three people have died due to slippery roads.

``Everything is just an ice rink out there,'' Rock County Sheriff's Sergeant Steve Selby said Sunday.

Sara Spohn, 23, of Arcadia, died Saturday afternoon in Galesville after she lost control of her vehicle on a snow-covered road, crossed the centerline and was struck by an oncoming pickup truck, according to the Trempealeau County sheriff's department. Two people in the other vehicle had minor injuries.

Slippery road conditions also led to a crash Sunday afternoon that killed Joanne Ditsch, 40, of Madison, the Dane County sheriff's office said. Ditsch apparently lost control of her vehicle and swerved into oncoming traffic, where her vehicle was struck on the passenger side. Ditsch's 16-year-old daughter was seriously injured and the other driver suffered minor injuries.

Similar circumstances led to the death of Jerry L. Boyle, 31, of Milwaukee as he drove near Coon Valley on Sunday morning, a Vernon County deputy said. The driver who struck Boyle's out-of-control vehicle suffered a broken leg and was in stable condition at a hospital Sunday afternoon.

The snow started in that area Saturday afternoon and has received more than 10 inches since then, according to the National Weather Service.

Also, more than 11,000 power customers were without power at some point from freezing rain, ice, gusty wind or heavy snow from the storm that started hitting the state Saturday.

Winter storm warnings were posted Sunday for parts of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan but most were expected to ease by midnight.

Bill Borghoff, a meteorologist intern at the National Weather Service, said the storm came from the southern Plains Saturday afternoon and was fueled by a drop in temperatures early Sunday. It brought rain and snow starting Saturday, with some parts of north central and southwestern Wisconsin receiving 8 to 12 inches of snow. Those areas could get another 3 to 5 inches by the end of Sunday, he said.

The Madison area had three to four hours of freezing rain early Sunday, he said.

``It's quite a mess out there,'' Borghoff said.

A wind advisory was issued Sunday for southeastern Wisconsin. Gusts reached 60 mph in the Milwaukee area, according to meteorologist intern Chris Franks.

Richard Anderson, owner of the Branding Iron Steakhouse in Hurley, said the area had received 8 to 10 inches of snow by Sunday afternoon and typically gets 200 to 300 inches a snow a year.

``From what you can see it's windy and blowing and snowing _ all at the same time,'' he said.

Area businesses love the snow because it brings in people to downhill ski and snowmobile, he said.

The Grant and Dane County sheriff's departments along with the State Patrol office in DeForest issued press releases saying there had been many slide-offs and crashes due to slippery roads. They advised drivers to stay off the roads. Dane County sheriff's Lt. Dan Bolch said they've had at least three people injured, with one seriously.

``Visibility is near zero in some areas,'' according to the State Patrol release.

Alliant Energy Spokesman Scott Reigstad said 5,500 people or more were without power in southern and central Wisconsin early Sunday and all but 800 were restored by the afternoon.

We Energies Spokesman Barry McNulty said about 3,000 people were out briefly Saturday night due to rain pushing road salt into their substations. Sunday's winds caused about 1,700 throughout the state to be without power.

Lisa Prunty, spokeswoman for Wisconsin Public Service, said about 1,000 mostly northern Wisconsin customers had power outages starting around 7 a.m. due to ice, rain, snow and wind gusts of 50 miles an hour. They have been restoring power in less than 30 minutes to most people, she said.