Thousands of Fox Valley schoolchildren were spending today away from classrooms after a winter storm slashed through the state Tuesday sending wind chills dangerously low and making highway travel treacherous.Temperatures plummeted more than 50 degrees over much of the state by early today as blustery winds and a few inches of snow that created blizzard-like conditions Tuesday night turned much of the Valley into a moonscape.
“We didn’t want kids walking to schools or taking buses in these dangerous conditions,” Appleton Supt. Lee Allinger said today. “We were particularly concerned about outlying areas . with drifting, blowing and poor visibility. It just wasn’t good out there.”
In downtown Appleton before the brunt of the storm hit late Tuesday afternoon, Mary Bissing-Olson was enthusiastically undaunted. “Bring it on,” she said.
Bissing-Olson, of Appleton, whose nose turned red even though she was bundled up against the nasty conditions, called the snowfall exciting. For her, the biting wind, bitter temperatures and snowfall conjured images of curling up by a fireplace and gazing out the window.
“As long as you don’t have to go anywhere in it, it’s great,” she said. “It might be a little too cold, but otherwise I like winter, so bring it on.”
Predictions of as much as 6 inches of new snow did not materialize. Appleton received 3 inches of snow Tuesday through Wednesday morning, according to the National Weather Service in Green Bay. The Post-Crescent measured 2 to 3 inches elsewhere around the Fox Cities.
Although less than expected, the snowfall was enough for winds of over 30 mph to whip across roads and sidewalks and into people’s faces.
Lone pedestrians hustled down the streets of downtown Appleton late Tuesday, their hoods pulled tight around their heads. Most were quiet, unwilling to pause in the cold for anything, and the only sounds that filled the air were the scraping of windows and sloshing sounds as cars whizzed past.
Diane Schuler, of the Town of Menasha, cringed at the snow blowing in her face, but said the recent 40-degree temperatures didn’t fool her. She had braced herself for another cold spell.
“It’s January. It’s Wisconsin. If you’re giving up on winter weather this early, you shouldn’t be living in Wisconsin,” she said.
The wind and cold caused scattered power outages across the state. In the Valley, Time Warner called in morning crews at 2 a.m. to fix wires knocked down by trees and reattach metal connectors pulled apart due to the cold, said company spokesman Bill Harke.
Customers with bundled services of telephone, cable and Internet access were without all three services in places.
After being spoiled by a January thaw a couple of weeks ago, and weather that started above freezing Tuesday, a reminder of Wisconsin’s January punch quickly hit home.
The low temperature of 15 degrees below zero in Appleton was reached at about 8 a.m. today, and it carried a wind chill of 42 degrees below zero, conditions that cause frostbite in just a few minutes.
Today’s high temperature wasn’t expected to move above zero, the weather service predicted, although the winds were expected to diminish.
By early evening Tuesday, all state highways except in the far southeastern corner of Wisconsin were listed as either snow-covered and slippery, slippery in stretches or ice-covered and hazardous.
Three of eight scheduled arrivals between 8 p.m. and midnight at Outagamie County Regional Airport in Greenville were listed as delayed. No departures were scheduled, according to the airport Web site. An arrival and a departure were cancelled this morning.
Dispatch records showed 101 traffic accident calls between Calumet and Outagamie counties between 7 p.m. Tuesday and 7 a.m. today.
The Winnebago County Sheriff’s Department tallied 76 cars in the ditch and six crashes from 12 p.m. Tuesday to 5 a.m. today.
No serious injuries as result of crashes were reported.
Outagamie County plows and sanders were pulled off all highways except U.S. 41 by early Tuesday evening, and weren’t put back on duty until early today.
Periods of heavy snow mixed with strong winds made for hazardous conditions, said Staff Sgt. Mike Heisler of the Outagamie County Sheriff’s Department.
“It’s the blowing that’s causing some whiteouts in rural areas,” he said.