UPDATED: I-94 reopened at 10:30 a.m. but travel discouraged
Wisconsin Department of Transportation officials reopened Interstate 94 at 10:30 a.m., Sunday but said much of the roadway was snow-covered and slippery and travel was still being discouraged. The four-lane highway was closed for 17 hours from Tomah to Hudson as maintenence crews worked to clear snow and mired vehicles.
"However, high winds continue to cause drifting and icing conditions on many roadways across the state. With the dangerous wind chills, white-out conditions in open areas, and snow and ice covered roads, WisDOT continues to advise against travel on any Wisconsin highway through the
remainder of the day, unless absolutely necessary," said Chris Ouellette, WisDOT communication manager.
For the most current information, the State Patrol said to visit www.511wi.gov.
St. Croix County announced the closure at 5:36 p.m., Saturday, noting that access ramps east of Hudson, Hammond and Baldwin were being blocked until further notice.
State officials opened the Emergency Operations Center late afternoon and issued the following statement early Sunday morning:
The State Patrol have declared I94 to be impassable in the following counties: Jackson, Trempealeau, Eau Claire, Dunn and St Croix. Motorists planning to use the interstate should make alternate plans, although all highways are in hazardous condition.
The Wisconsin Emergency Operations Center (EOC) continues to monitor the major winter storm blanketing Wisconsin. As of 4:30 a.m., the National Weather Service has reported snowfall totals as high as 18.5 inches in parts of the state.
The risk of blizzard conditions continues into Sunday evening, with sections of the state under a blizzard warning until 6:00 p.m. A severe drop in temperatures combined with strong winds is likely to lead to icy road conditions heading into the new week.
A blizzard warning for Milwaukee/Racine/Kenosha/Walworth Counties has been dropped to a winter storm warning.
Snow-packed roads across the state are icy and travel is not advised. The stretch of I-94 between Tomah and Eau Claire continues to be impassible due to heavy snow.
The National Weather Service is reporting a slight decrease in snowfall intensities across parts of the state since 2 a.m. As of 4:30 a.m., light to moderate snow continued over Wisconsin southeast of a line from La Crosse to Rhinelander.
Snowfall was expected to taper off after noon, with the exception of some moderate snow showers near Lake Michigan.
Through 6 p.m. on Sunday, north winds of 20 to 25 mph with gusts of 35 to 45 mph were expected across much of Wisconsin, especially the eastern two-thirds of the state. Gusts of 45 to 50 mph were expected along the Lake Michigan shoreline. Power outages are possible with this combination of wind and snow/ice accumulation.
Snow continued through Saturday
The rapid accumulation of heavy snow, which arrived around 11 p.m., Friday and had deposited at least five inches by dawn, Saturday. By late afternoon Saturday, many areas received in excess of 15 inches of snow.
Snowfall continued into the afternoon, dropping more than an inch per hour.
Pierce County snow plows were on the job throughout the county.
A multi-vehicle accident on westbound I-94 the Knapp area east of Woodville closed one lane for about two hours mid-morning Saturday as state troopers worked with tow companies to pull one semi-rig from the median and another, which was disabled in the lane of traffic.
Emergency crews from Woodville, Baldwin and Menomonie were summoned. At least one person was believed injured, according to radio exchanges from the scene.
Around 9 a.m., another semi- collided with a bus on I-94, slowing traffic in the area of mile marker 35, west of Menomonie, the Patrol reported.
Heavy snowfall cancelled events around the region.
Saturday afternoon and evening activities at UW-RF were cancelled as were activities at WITC, New Richmond.
A number of area high school students may have breathed relief with the cancellation of ACT exams at River Falls High School as well as Frederic High School, to the north.
A Pierce County sheriff's department dispatcher paged Prescott firefighters around noon, Saturday to advise their holiday party for the evening was being postponed.