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While most of the trees that broke off or were pulled out by their roots during Saturday's heavy snowfall did little damage, these two fell across a driveway blocking the residents in for the day. Neighbors helped with the cleanup. Photo by Margaret A. Ontl

First winter storm wreaks havoc in Hudson area

News River Falls,Wisconsin 54022 http://www.hudsonstarobserver.com/sites/default/files/styles/square_300/public/fieldimages/14/0613/snow.jpg?itok=nfVn64Zi
Hudson Star Observer
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First winter storm wreaks havoc in Hudson area
River Falls Wisconsin 2815 Prairie Drive / P.O. Box 25 54022

Winter is inevitable every year with snow and cold but it apparently catches local drivers unaware with each coming. Such was the case last weekend with the first snowfall of the season.

The fact that the first winter storm of the season came just three days after a record high temperature of 68 degrees was recorded in the area may have contributed to the situation.

Wet snow descended on roadways in St. Croix County and caused numerous spin-outs and crashes that flooded the emergency communications center with calls starting Friday evening.

Casey Swetlik, ECC director, said between 6 p.m. Friday and 11 a.m. Monday, the center got 33 accident calls, 78 calls for a vehicle in the ditch and 36 for EMS.

Swetlik said during the peak his crew was "taking 30 calls in a period of time when they would usually take eight or nine."

The St. Croix County Sheriff's Department reported a serious accident outside North Hudson in which four people were injured and hospitalized. The two-car crash occurred on Hwy. 35 near the intersection of Old Hwy. 35 at 11:50 a.m. Saturday.

Tabatha R. Baumgartner, 16, Hudson, apparently lost control of the Ford F350 pickup she was driving and collided with a southbound 2005 GMC Envoy driven by Brandon J. Elias, 26, Houlton. The Envoy was pushed up against the guardrail, the accident report said.

Elias and passengers James Elias, 66, and Diane Elias, 49, Houlton, and Athena R. Elias, 30, Mankato, Minn., were injured and taken to Regions Hospital in St. Paul by ambulance. The reports said the weather prevented medical helicopter transportation.

The sheriff's department said all four were expected to recover from their injuries. Baumgartner and a passenger, Taylor Kistler, 16, Hudson, were taken to a local hospital and released.

The National Weather Service in Chanhassen, Minn., said the official snowfall total at Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport was eight inches. It was the largest pre-Thanksgiving as well as November snowfall in the area since the Halloween blizzard of Oct. 31-Nov. 2, 1991.

The first winter storm included thundersnow with cloud to ground lightning and snowfall rates of two inches per hour in areas of the Twin Cities, the weather service said.

Accumulations were greatest at Hawthorne in Wisconsin along Hwy. 53 south of Superior where 11 inches was recorded and west southwest of Maple Grove, Minn., near the intersection of I-94 and I-494 northwest of the metro with 12 inches.

The immediate Hudson area appeared to receive some 4.8 to 6.0 inches of snow according to weather service reports.

Time Ramberg, St. Croix County highway commissioner, said his crews began plowing at 2 a.m. Saturday on the interstate and continued with the state highways at 4 a.m., county roads at 5:45 a.m. and some town roads.

"The snow was heavier in the eastern part of the county than the west," Ramberg said.

On Sunday morning county plows were out at 3 a.m. on the interstate and continued with state highways, county and township roads through the early morning, he said.

City response

Downed trees and power lines complicated street plowing in the city of Hudson, reported Tom Zeuli, director of the Public Works and Parks Department.

Zeuli said the heavy, wet snow downed several trees that fell on streets.

The street blockages occurred at Wisconsin and 13th, on Knollwood Drive, and in three places on Seventh Street -- near Wisconsin Street, Summer Street and Laurel Avenue.

The trees fell across power lines in places, including the Seventh Street hill, which was closed to allow an Xcel Energy crew to do repair work.

"It was a mess. It was a very busy mess," Zeuli said of conditions on Saturday. "We had a few people getting the streets cleared of snow and a few people getting the streets cleared of trees."

The Seventh Street hill had to be plowed and salted for Xcel Energy to get its vehicles to the site of the downed power line.

Fire trucks responding to downed power lines got stuck in a couple of places and needed assistance from the Public Works Department to get moving again.

"It was very slippery," Zeuli said.

With a forecast of snow continuing into late Saturday afternoon and evening, Zeuli sent out a limited number of plow trucks to keep the main thoroughfares and hills open.

The main snow removal effort started at 4 a.m. Sunday.

"I think everything went good," Zeuli said. "Where vehicles were off the street, it went extremely well."

Jon Echternacht
(715) 808-8602
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