A relentless snowstorm that dumped nearly 14 inches of snow on the Tomah area snarled traffic and closed schools Tuesday.
Monroe County Highway Commissioner David Ohnstad said Wednesday that his department deployed 24/7 coverage on the Interstate system and worked 18-hour shifts on the county and local highways. But the monster storm, which began around 9 p.m. Monday and didn’t stop until more than 24 hours later, still wreaked havoc on travel.
The storm resulted in an injury to a Wisconsin State Patrol officer, whose cruiser was rear-ended by a semi truck Tuesday around 11 a.m. According to the State Patrol, the trooper had arrived to shut down traffic near the Oakdale exit due to a crash near Camp Douglas. The trooper was taken to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.
The crash brought traffic to near standstill on the Interstate. Traffic was detoured onto Hwy. 12-16.
The Monroe County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the crash.
Ohnstad said seven semis were stuck in ditches along the Interstate in Monroe County Wednesday morning and said they wouldn’t likely be removed until Thursday. He said it’s critical for drivers to slow down during winter weather. He said road conditions are often “what people make them.”
“People don’t always take into account that it’s winter in Wisconsin and that you can’t always buzz down the highway at 60 − or even 30 or 40 − miles per hour,” he said.
He anticipated local roads would return to “pretty decent conditions” by the end of the day Wednesday, but said the light, fluffy snow will likely blow around.
“Drifting is more of an issue than anything,” Ohnstad said. “Until the wind stops, we’ll be in recovery mode.”
Monroe County Sheriff Wes Revels said significant snow had already piled up during the overnight hours of Tuesday. He said by 3 a.m., Hwy. 16 between Tomah and Sparta was “30 miles per hour traffic.”
“The amount of snow certainly complicated what we needed to do,” Revels said. “We still get those everyday calls we need to assist with.”
The Tomah Area School District, which cancelled classes and extracurriculars Tuesday, has already scheduled a makeup day. A teacher inservice that was scheduled for Feb. 18 has been converted to a normal classroom day. Schools opened with a two-hour delay Wednesday.
According to the National Weather Service, Tomah was the area snowfall champion with its 14 inches, although there were isolated reports of 17 inches in the area. In La Crosse County, New Amsterdam recorded 11 inches, and Holmen, Onalaska and La Crosse all recorded 10 inches. In Trempealeau County, Galesville received 12.2 inches and Trempealeau 11.5 inches.
Those who are tired of shoveling snow are forecast to get a reprieve. A light dusting was forecast for Thursday followed by a period of dry weather with below-average temperatures. National Weather Service meteorologist John Wetenkamp said, “We’ve been in an active storm track, but we don’t see any significant activity in the next few days.”
The La Crosse Tribune contributed to this story.
Tomah Journal editor Steve Rundio can be reached at email@example.com.