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Storm dumps nearly 20 inches of snow near Madison

Published On: Dec 20 2012 03:52:13 PM CST
Updated On: Dec 20 2012 10:02:39 PM CST
MADISON, Wis. -

A major winter storm has dumped nearly 20 inches of snow in the Madison area.

The National Weather Service said Middleton, on the west side of Madison, reported 19.5 inches of snow while Cross Plains had 18 inches Thursday evening.

In east-central Wisconsin, the storm dumped 14 inches of snow on Oakfield.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison canceled final exams Thursday in anticipation of the storm. But all final exams will take place on Friday and Saturday as scheduled. Employees should return to work as usual.

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation said high winds and slippery roads will cause unsafe travel for large trucks and commercial vehicles overnight in Wisconsin. Snow is tapering off, but winds are increasing with gusts possibly exceeding 50 mph.

Temperatures will drop into the 20s Friday.

The DOT said hazardous travel conditions are expected to continue through Friday afternoon.

The winter storm has left thousands of Wisconsin residents without power and caused at least two major rollover crashes in Dane County.

Major utilities reported 25,000 customers without power stateside Thursday night, which doesn't include smaller providers. Officials said they expect power outages to continue.

"As the night progresses, as the wind starts blowing and the heavy snow sits on the lines and the wind comes along and it's icy, then we're going to have some power outages," said Tod Pritchard, of Wisconsin Emergency Management.

The Madison Streets Department has been working all day Thursday to plow area roadways.

Snow piling up on residential streets meant the city had to divert much of its fleet to begin to dig neighborhoods out while keeping about a dozen trucks on main arteries in the city to keep whatever traffic needed to be out on their way.

"It's going to be really difficult to get things in what we would call decent shape. We are looking at the volume of snow that keeps coming, the winds blowing, we suspect it's going to be really tough going all through the evening, and we won't get ahead of this storm until sometime around 3 to 4 a.m. in the morning," said George Dreckmann, of the Madison Streets Department.

Madison firefighters have responded to multiple reports of downed power lines. As of 8:30 p.m. Thursday, firefighters had responded to 37 of these incidents.

Madison crews have been working to maintain safe areas around any live power lines that may pose a hazard to residents. People who see wires down should assume they are energized, stay clear of them and notify their utility company.

State officials said all the utilities are working to restore power.

Dane County's major utilities said that customers without power likely won't have power restored until sometime Friday.

Wisconsin State Patrol officials report a semi-trailer jack-knifed on Interstate 39/90 near Stoughton. Another semi-trailer rolled over on I-90 near DeForest and Waunakee. The State Patrol said both crashes caused backups but have been cleared.

Emergency management officials said there have been crashes but no reported deaths since a Rock County crash Wednesday night.

"People had days of warnings and they took it very seriously. So that was a huge factor, it saved a lot of grief and it probably saved a lot of lives," Pritchard said.

While the snow is forecast to diminish through Thursday evening, road conditions are expected to worsen through the overnight with forecasted wind gusts up to 50 and 60 mph. Strong winds are forecast to continue through the day Friday, resulting in continued drifting and difficult travel.

Dane County remains under a state of emergency as the effects of Thursday's blizzard continue to lead to dangerous and deteriorating conditions on many roads and highways, Dane County Executive Joe Parisi said.

Dane County has had about 60 plows out Thursday but is pulling crews off county highways from 7 p.m. Thursday to 3 a.m. Friday, while crews on state highways will go around the clock.

Officials said if people are traveling and they get stuck, especially out on county and rural roads, they shouldn't expect help to be able to reach them quickly.

"We're asking all of our residents to stay home. Do not travel on Dane County's roads," said Dane County Sheriff Dave Mahoney. "If it sounds like we keep hammering this, we are, because that's the safest place to be in a snowstorm like this. Let us do our jobs. Let us clear our roads, and then life will return to normal as soon as possible."

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