Spring snowstorm breaks record, buries area
By Heather McDonald
A spring snowstorm last weekend dropped more than 20 inches of snow on the area, accounting for more than a third of the winter season’s snow and sleet totals and breaking a record that was 80 years old.
And another few inches was forecast mid-week, after press deadline.
The storm caused Stevens Point Mayor Mike Wiza to encourage people to stay home Saturday, and the Portage County Sheriff’s Office to follow suit Sunday.
“This is a significant winter event,” Wiza said Saturday morning. “Please understand that everyone is dealing with this as best they can. Everyone should stay off the roads unless it is critically important.”
City parking lots were open for overnight parking throughout the weekend. The city declared a snow emergency through early Monday afternoon. Plover declared a snow emergency Friday afternoon.
The storm, which began Friday, April 13, continued into Monday, April 16, showing brief signs of letting up Saturday, April 14, but by mid-afternoon had started falling heavy and reducing visibility, carrying conditions into Sunday. Early Monday, the blizzard turned to flurries, and a few flurries were still hovering Tuesday.
The snowstorm dropped 19.8 inches on the area, and though the month is not yet over, the blizzard already shattered the April snowfall record set in 1928.
With the weekend’s snow, Portage County has hit a total of 30.2 inches of snow this month, crushing the April 1928 record of 19 inches, and accounting for more than half of the winter season’s total 59.5 inches of snowfall, according to Tim Bubla of Plover’s National Weather Service COOP Station “PLOW3.”
Nearly 10 inches (9.7) fell on Sunday alone, nearly reaching the 1928 single-day snowfall record of 11 inches, which occurred April 14 that year.
In addition, the 1.03 inches of rainfall on Friday, April 13, broke a record as well, though the maximum single-day rainfall record for April occurred April 4, 1981, when 2.4 inches deluged the area.
Though reduced to a light snow Monday morning, the weather still canceled schools and community programs.
Stevens Point Area Public Schools and Rosholt Schools previously were closed for teacher in-service, Pacelli Catholic Schools and Amherst Schools delayed opening two hours, and Almond-Bancroft, Iola-Scandinavia and Tri-County schools all closed Monday.
The Meals on Wheels program also closed Monday due to weather.
It was a carryover from Sunday, when at 6:58 a.m. the county Sheriff’s Office alerted local news outlets to encourage people to stay home, saying “travel in Portage County is not recommended; main and secondary roads are impassable due to the drifting and blowing snow.”
Highway crews were visible throughout the city and county all weekend working to clear the roadways, but were unable to keep up with changing conditions, the Sheriff’s Office said. Weather and travel conditions were not expected to improve throughout the day and into the night hours.
“Non-emergent travel is highly discouraged. Response times may be delayed due to these conditions,” the Sheriff’s Office said.
Some businesses had already been closing early Saturday, and by Sunday simply didn’t reopen their doors. The few that did chose to close shortly after noon.
An employee at Ashley Furniture in Plover joked that there was nowhere to go to get food when the business shut its doors Sunday because every business in Crossroads Commons was closed.
Churches across central Wisconsin – regardless of denomination – reported canceled services, Mass and youth nights Sunday. St. Bronislava Church rescheduled its dance to April 29 due to the weather.
Portage County Public Library branches, including the main library in Stevens Point, closed Saturday and Sunday, and though open Monday, parking was more of a jigsaw puzzle around the snow mounds left by the plows.
High winds accompanying the storm caused power outages, leaving about 400 Wisconsin Public Service customers in the Stevens Point area without power. The high peak for wind gusts during the storm hit 52 mph Saturday morning. WPS worked on outages into Sunday for its service area, which experienced about 24,000 outages due to the storm.
Vehicles sliding into ditches and accidents were not uncommon. One accident on I-39 about halfway between the County W Bancroft exit and the Business 54/51 Plover exit shut down the left northbound lane for nearly two hours between 7 and 9 p.m. Saturday.
Sunday a semi-truck got stuck in the plowed snow coming around a corner off an I-39 ramp, not only blocking the off-ramp traffic but also backing up eastbound traffic on Highway 10 past Hilltop Pub & Grill.
The storm overpowered Trivia, which draws thousands into the area, canceling the running and “Stone Trivia” questions.
Despite the storm, dedicated health and wellness enthusiasts were seen running, walking dogs and pulling children in sleds down side streets throughout the weekend.
Normal spring temperatures return next week, pushing into the low 60s by the weekend, according to forecasts.