The winter storm that affected south-central and southeast Tuesday afternoon through the Tuesday overnight hours was unusual in that just about all types of weather elements occurred: rain, dense fog, thunderstorms and hail, freezing rain, sleet, snow, blowing snow, strong gusty winds, quickly-falling temperatures, and dangerous wind chill temperatures. Wow! - did we forget anything? Granted, there wasn’t a lot of snow - only 0.5 to 2.5 inches of snow fell, but it was the combination of all of the other elements that made for a winter storm that had an impact on society.
A very strong cold front punched its way east across south-central and southeast Wisconsin on Tuesday, and it was preceded by rain and areas of dense fog that lowered visibilities to 1/8 to 1/4 mile for 1 to 2 hours. Some of the convective showers dumped brief heavy rains and small hail. Maximum daytime temperatures peaked in the 40s, with the Kenosha Airport having high honors with 49.
After the cold front moved through, temperatures plunged and the precipitation changed to freezing rain, sleet, and then snow with visibilities dropping to 1/2 to 1 mile in open areas, and briefly to near zero in isolated spots. Some locations had an hour of freezing rain and/or an hour of sleet (ice pellets). By 6 P.M Tuesday, temperatures had plunged to 1 above in Mineral Point to 27 at both Racine and Kenosha. Ice then formed on untreated road and sidewalk surfaces. The west to northwest winds behind the cold front increased to 20 to 30 mph in the afternoon with gusts to 40 to 45 mph. This allowed blowing and drifting snow to enter the picture. Although outright blizzard conditions never occurred (nor were they expected or forecasted), weather conditions were still bad. Many schools had closed down during the late morning or early afternoon hours, and many evening events were cancelled.
During the Tuesday evening and overnight hours, the winds increased in speed and some brief moderate to heavy snow showers affected southeast Wisconsin. Additionally, temperatures kept going down and blowing snow continued in open areas across the remainder of south-central and southeast Wisconsin. By 6 A.M. Wednesday morning, temperatures ranged from -11 at the Baraboo/Dells airport to -4 at Milwaukee. Wind chill temperatures overnight dropped as well, and eventually reached the -28 to -39 range.
In the temperature drop department, Kenosha had a 54 degree drop, from 49 to -5. Milwaukee had a 50 degree drop from 46 to -4, and Madison had a 51 degree drop from 43 to -8. All other locations in south-central and southeast Wisconsin had temperature drops from 47 to 53 degrees. These temperature drops don’t happen every year, but nonetheless, they are among the largest temperature drops observed. We don’t have a complete, official listing of the largest temperature drops over a period of two days, so we can’t say for sure if some site set a new record. In a related Top News of the Day story on this web site, we do have some information on temperature drops on a given calendar day.
In the snow department, accumulations ranged from around 1/2 inch in the Racine and Kenosha area to generally 1 to 2 inches over the remainder of south-central and southeast Wisconsin. Up to 2.5 inches was measures in the Sheboygan area. Total melted precipitation totals ranged from 0.10 inches to 0.25 inches.
In the wind department, most peak gusts and highest sustained 2-minute winds occurred between 1030 P.M. Tuesday evening to 2 A.M. Wednesday morning. Some notable peak gusts include 62 mph at a Wisconsin DOT site on I-94 in Racine County, 56 mph at Sheboygan, 52 mph at Milwuakee, 51 mph at Kenosha and Waukesha, 48 mph at Fond du Lac and Racine, 46 mph at Monroe, and 44 mph at Madison. Milwaukee and Sheboygan tied for the highest 2-minute sustained wind speed of 38 mph.
In the wind chill department, both Fond du Lac and Sheboygan dropped to -39 during the pre-dawn hours, followed by a -38 in Mineral Point, -37 at Monroe, -36 at the Baraboo/Dells airport and the Lone Rock airport, -35 at Waukesha, -34 at Milwaukee Timmerman Field, -33 at Madison, and -29 at Milwaukee Mitchell Field. Everyone else dropped to at least -28 to -32 wind chills.
Below is a listing of sustained and peak wind gusts, and lowest wind chill temperatures:
PUBLIC INFORMATION STATEMENT
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE MILWAUKEE/SULLIVAN WI
1105 AM CST WED JAN 30 2008
...SUMMARY OF STRONG WINDS OVER PAST 24 HOURS...
LOCATION SUSTAINED WIND (MPH) PEAK GUST (MPH) LOWEST WIND CHILL
2 W STURTEVANT (WIDOT) 42 62
SHEBOYGAN ARPT(KSBM) 38 56 -39
3 S WAUKESHA 55
SHEBOYGAN BUOY(CMAN) 41 52
MILWAUKEE INTL ARPT (KMKE) 38 52 -29
WAUKESHA ARPT(KUES) 37 51 -35
KENOSHA ARPT(KENW) 37 51 -32
PORT WASHINGTON (GLERL) 51
KENOSHA MARINE(GLERL) 51
7 W MONTELLO 49
FOND DU LAC ARPT(KFLD) 36 48 -39
RACINE BATTEN ARPT(KRAC) 32 48 -28
MOUNT HOREB 48
WEST BEND ARPT(KETB) 35 47 -34
MONROE ARPT(KEFT) 32 46 -37
MILWAUKEE TIM ARPT(KMWC) 32 46 -34
2 N SUSSEX 46
BURLINGTON ARPT(KBUU) 30 45 -29
MADISON TRUAX ARPT (KMSN) 30 44 -33
LONE ROCK ARPT(KLNR) 31 43 -36
JANESVILLE ARPT(KJVL) 31 43 -28
HORICON (RAWS) 43
ELKHORN (WIDOT) 43
3 SW BEAVER DAM 43
1 W JACKSON 42
WATERTOWN ARPT(KRYV) 30 41 -34
JOHNSON CREEK (WIDOT) 41
PARDEEVILLE (RAWS) 40
MINERAL POINT ARPT(KMRJ) 30 39 -38
WISC DELLS ARPT(KDLL) 35 -36
JUNEAU DODGE ARPT(KUNU) 35
Story composed by Kapela and Craven