A major winter storm impacted south-central and southeast Wisconsin on February 5-6, 2008, with the hardest hitting part of the storm during the morning of the 6th. This was a long duration event coupled with strong gusty winds and some thunder. Blowing and drifting snow compounded the effects of the heavy snow. Total new snow accumulations in excess of 12 inches occurred in the area southeast of a line from Dubuque, Iowa to Madison to Beaver Dam to West Bend to Sheboygan. Up to 16 inches fell in the area from Monroe and Janesville to the Port Washington and Milwaukee area...with isolated 18 to 21 amounts reported. Total snow amounts tapered off quickly to 4 inches north of Wisconsin Dells and an inch or less across far northwest Marquette county.
The accumulating snow gradually decreased from west to east in the late afternoon and early evening hours on Wednesday the 6th...and finally ended near Lake Michigan by around midnight. Occasional heavy snowfall rates of 2 to 3 inches per hour were observed in that area where a total of 12 inches or more were measured. The winds were out of the north at 15 to 25 mph with some gusts to 35 mph. These winds generated blowing and drifting snow, especially in open areas. Visibilities dropped to below 1/4 mile at times, and west-east orientated roads experienced considerable drifting, and 2 to 4 foot drifts. Some brief blizzard or near-blizzard conditions occurred near Lake Michigan where the winds were stronger, as well as in open, exposed areas over the remainder of southern Wisconsin.
Some roads become impassable due to the blowing and drifting snow. A major traffic backup occured on Interstate 39/90 westbound south of Madison with as many as 2000 cars stranded for up to 12 hours.
On the weather map, a strong low pressure area over northwest Indiana moved from Missouri to central Illinois and then to northern Indiana and lower Michigan. Some moisture from Lake Michigan did manage to enhance the snowfalls over parts of southeast Wisconsin.
Weather spotters sent an unbelievable number of snow reports to the Milwaukee/Sullivan office.
Some of the higher storm snowfall totals include:
21" at Orfordville, and 9WNW Beloit, 20.6 at Delavan, 20.4" at Ft. Atkinson, 20.1" at Saukville, 20" at Beloit, Jackson, and 1E Evansville
19.5" at Germantown
18" at 2NE Glendale, and Stoughton
17.8" at Brodhead, 17.3" at West Allis, 17.1" at Beaver Dam, 17.0" at Jefferson, Brown Deer, Lake Mills, and Rome
16.5" at 1N Sun Prairie and 1N Beaver Dam, 16.3" at the Milwaukee/Sullivan WFO about 3.8 miles southeast of Sullivan and 2SE Waukesha, 16" at Brookfield, 4NNE Sun Prairie, 4S Waukesha, Janesville, Johnson Creek, 1S Mt. Horeb, 2SW West Bend, Alleton, and 2N Saukville
15.5" at Argyle, 1NW Beaver Dam, Kenosha WWTP, Whitnall Park, and 0.4W State Fair Park, 15.1" at Wind Point, 15.0" at Watertown, Afton, 1S Rochester, Union Grove, 3W Thiensville
13.4" at Madison Truax Field
12.9" at Milwaukee Mitchell Field
Below are plots of snowfall amounts for the 36-hour period from Noon on February 5th to Midnight on the evening of the 6th:
...PUTTING FEBRUARY 5-6 WINTER STORM SNOWFALL AMOUNTS INTO PERSPECTIVE...
THE LAST TIME LARGE PARTS OF SOUTH-CENTRAL AND SOUTHEAST WISCONSIN HAD A SNOWSTORM PRODUCING 15 TO 20 INCHES OF SNOW WAS WITH THE JANUARY 2-3, 1999 WINTER STORM/BLIZZARD. IN THAT STORM...20.5 INCHES FELL AT SLINGER IN WASHINGTON COUNTY AND 20 INCHES IN WEST ALLIS. MILWAUKEE MITCHELL FIELD PICKED UP 15.4 INCHES.
ANOTHER STORM WITH 15 TO 17 INCHES AFFECTED RACINE AND KENOSHA COUNTY ON DECEMBER 1, 2006. HOWEVER...THE AREA AFFECTED BY SNOWFALLS OVER 15 INCHES WAS CONSIDERABLY LESS THAN THE FEBRUARY 5-6, 2008 STORM.
BOTH MILWAUKEE AND MADISON SET SNOWFALL RECORDS FOR THE DATE WEDNESDAY WITH MIDNIGHT TO MIDNIGHT TOTALS OF 11.9 INCHES AT MADISON AND 11.6 FOR MILWAUKEE. THIS WAS THE 8TH HIGHEST CALENDAR DAY TOTAL ON RECORD FOR MADISON...WHILE MILWAUKEE’S TOTAL TIED WITH FEBRUARY 25, 1935 AND APRIL 9, 1973 FOR 16TH ON THE CALENDAR DAY SNOW TOTAL LIST.