The new snow means plenty of new opportunities for winter recreation, including Nordic skiing, snowmobiling, and sledding.
The telltale rumble of snowplows scraping the streets is a familiar sound around downtown Madison, as the first major winter storm of the season cuts a swath across much of the Upper Midwest this Saturday evening. A mix of snow, sleet, and ice has glazed over the region through the morning and afternoon hours, and is forecast to continue through the weekend.
By 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, the National Weather Service (NWS) reported 3.5 inches of snow accumulation in Middleton, followed subsequently by 1.5 inches of sleet accumulation and 0.1 inches of ice accretion. Thicker accretions are expected to build on trees and power lines, and could lead to sporadic damage leading to power outages.
These conditions are also making the streets particularly hazardous. A flight arriving from Chicago slid on upon landing on a runway at the Dane County Regional Airport on Saturday morning, and numerous auto crashes throughout the state have been reported.
Early Saturday afternoon, the City of Madison officially declared a Snow Emergency. This initiates alternate side parking restrictions throughout the city, including the snow emergency zone downtown. Residents who are unable to remove their vehicles are required to park on the even house numbered side of the street on Saturday, and on the odd numbered side on Sunday. Fines for violating the restrictions are $30 inside the zone and $20 outside of it. This Snow Emergency is set to continue at least until 7 a.m. on Monday, December 3.
"Because of the mixture of snow, sleet, and freezing rain that will fall this evening anyone planning to drive on Madison's streets should use extreme caution," says Madison Streets Division spokesperson in the official announcement for the Snow Emergency. "We urge folks to stay off the roads if possible." If drivers must take to the roads amidst these dangerous conditions, they are encouraged to drive safely. Winter driving safety tips were issued both by the City of Madison (here) and Dane County (here) on Friday in anticipation of the storm.
As noted in a report issued by the NWS:
This is an unusually heavy ice storm for southern Wisconsin. Consider postponing or revising travel plans through tonight. All persons shoveling snow will also want to use extra caution because the combination of wet snow, sleet, and additional liquid in the form of freezing rain will cause a shovel's worth of snow to be very heavy. All interests are urged to keep up with the forecast as this winter storm will severely impact the region.
This ice storm could be the heaviest in the region in nearly two years. The NWS has published a list of the top ten ice storms in Wisconsin dating back to the early 1970s.
Meanwhile, photo galleries of the storm and snowfall have been published online by Gregory Humphrey (). Events being canceled due to the storm are being compiled by local TV broadcasters, including WISC, WKOW, and WMTV. There are also ongoing discussions about the winter weather on TDPF and the LiveJournal group for Madison.
Temperatures are expected warm through the night, with sleet, freezing rain, freezing drizzle, and light rain to continue into the early morning hours. Another inch of sleet accumulation is possible on top of the two to five inches of snow that have already fallen throughout the region. An addition one-half inch of ice accretion is also possible through the morning.
The mess should continue on Sunday, with a mix of drizzle, light rain, and light snow possible through the day as temperatures hover around freezing before falling in the afternoon. By Sunday night, winds are expected to pick up with another chance of light snow. Then the new week is forecast to begin with cold temperatures.
Then the fun can begin. The latest preparations for winter recreation were detailed in a statement issued by Dane County on Friday. Now, the new snow means plenty of new opportunities for winter recreation, including Nordic skiing, snowmobiling, and sledding, while colder temperatures are freezing some of the smaller bodies of water in the region, opening the door for skating and ice fishing once the ice is thick enough. Have fun!