History of Ice Storms in Wisconsin

Wisconsin doesn’t experience many ice storms.  A look into the weather archives indicated that 12 significant ice storms have affected Wisconsin in the 36 years going back to 1972.  Consequently, a minimal ice storm can be expected somewhere in Wisconsin about once every 3 years or so.

Below is a listing of historical ice storm events in Wisconsin...dating back to 1972.  The events are listed with the most recent event first...then going back in time.  Damage costs listed are in the dollar amounts at their respective times.
They are not adjusted for inflation.

1. Date...12/11/2007.

Location...portions of South Central and Southeast Wisconsin...mainly along and south of a Port Washington...Lake Mills to Darlington line.  

Ice Accumulations...1/10 to 1/2 inch with the higher amounts in the border counties. Snow and sleet mixed with the freezing rain...with snow accumulations rapidly increasing from around 1 inch or less near the Illinois border...to 4 to 6 inches around a Milwaukee to Madison line...tapering to 1 to 3 inches to the north.  

Damage costs...unknown.  Plowing and salting operations in the City of Milwaukee estimated at 500 thousand dollars and 300 thousand dollars in Madison. 

Impacts...Many vehicle spin-outs and accidents due to the treacherous road conditions. Most area schools and some businesses closed. Scattered power outages that affected 3200 WE Energy cutomers. The combination of ice and snow buildup from the last few storms caused the roofs of a small metal shed in New Glarus and another metal building near Monroe...both in Green County... to collapse.

2. Date...12/1/2007.

Location...southern half of state, with greatest amounts over southern third, especially near Illinois border.

Ice accumulations...1/8 to 1/2 inch on top of several inches of snow and sleet (from 2 to 8 inches).

Damage costs...unknown.

Impacts...hundreds of vehicle accidents, at least 3 indirectly-related vehicle accident fatalities, and possibly 3 additional
indirectlly-related fatalities.  Scattered power outages due to tree branch debris impacting power lines.  Many airplane
and event cancellations.  Jet airplane that landed safely at Madison Truax Field subsequently slid off a taxi-way when turning.

3. Date...1/1/2005 to 1/2/2005.

Location...northwest...central...northeast...southwest and portions of south central and southeast Wisconsin.

Ice accumulations...1/4 to 1/2 inch.

Damage costs...unknown.

Impacts...numerous car accidents reported.

4.  Date...1/4/1998 to 1/5/1998.

Location...southwest...west central...central and northeast Wisconsin.

Ice accumulations...1/4 to 1/2 inch...with 1/2 to 3/4 inch ice accumulations across west-central Wisconsin.

Damage costs...at least 66 thousand dollars.

Impacts...scattered power outages...with a few tree branches down.  Numerous car accidents reported.

5. Date...12/23/1996 to 12/24/1996.

Location...far southwest into south central and southeast Wisconsin.

Ice accumulations...1/4 to 3/8 inch from lafayette county northeast to Fond du Lac county.  Less than or up to 1/4 inch ice accumulations surrounding this area.

Damage costs...300 thousand dollars.

Impacts...at least 100 car accidents reported.  Major multi-car accident closed the westbound beltline highway in madison prior to dawn on 12/23/1996. Ice accumulation during this storm led to a radio tower collapse in baraboo on 12/31/1996.

6. Date...11/15/1996.

Location...west central...central and portions of northern Wisconsin.

Ice accumulations...up to 1/2 inch.

Damage costs...at least 150 thousand dollars.

Impacts...many trees down and power outages. More than 165 car accidents were reported in central wisconsin...with 70 in the city of wausau. Schools dismissed students early or began late...with some closed all day.

7. Date...2/26/1996 to 2/27/1996.

Location...southwest...west central...central and east central Wisconsin.

Ice accumulations...1/4 to 1/2 inch.

Damage costs...unknown.

Impacts...numerous car accidents reported. Ice covered tree limbs fell on power lines...causing numerous power outages.

8. Date...2/23/1977 to 2/24/1977.

Location...central and northern Wisconsin.

Ice accumulations...1/4 to 3/4 inch.

Damage costs...50 thousand to 500 thousand.

Impacts...ice covered tree limbs fell on power lines...causing numerous power outages.

9. Date...3/4/1976 to 3/5/1976.

Location...far southwest...south central and portions of southeast Wisconsin.

Ice accumulations...up to 5.0 inches.

Damage costs...50.4 million dollars.

Impacts...devastating ice storm.  Many trees and power lines snapped from the severe ice accumulations...resulting in widespread power outages. Outages lasted for up to 10 days in rural areas.  Damage estimated at 50.4 million dollars. States of emergency declared in many counties.

Below are a couple pictures of the ice accumulations around Slinger, Washington County, taken by Steve Hentz.

Ice Picture #1

 

Ice Picture #2

 

10. Date...3/1/1976 to 3/2/1976.

Location...southeast wisconsin...mainly north of Milwaukee county.

Ice accumulations...2.0 to 4.0 inches.

Damage costs...500 thousand to 5 million dollars.

Impacts...ice covered power lines and trees collapsed...causing widespread power outages and blocked roads.

11. Date...3/29/1974.

Location...entire state of Wisconsin.

Ice accumulations...up to 1.0 inch.

Damage costs...50 thousand to 500 thousand dollars.

Impacts...widespread tree and power line damage.

12. Date...12/30/1972.

Location...northern wisconsin.

Ice accumulations...unknown.

Damage costs...50 thousand to 500 thousand dollars.

Impacts...many trees and power lines downed by heavy ice accumulations. Followed a heavy snow event in the area.

 



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