Winter Storms, Ice, and Cold Weather Facts
- In the last five years, Wisconsin has averaged 18,600 motor vehicle crashes during the winter months when roads are covered with ice, snow or slush.
- On average, 48 people are killed and more than 4,700 injured in Wisconsin each winter season in crashes when roads are covered in ice, snow and slush.
- Many crashes are caused by "driving too fast for current conditions." Also, when the first blast of winter arrives, motorists often need to "re-learn" how to drive in slippery conditions.
- Be gentle with both the accelerator and brake. Don't use cruise control in wintery conditions. Don't be overconfident in your four-wheel drive vehicle. You may get going quicker than others but you can't stop faster. Four-wheel drive vehicles can lose traction as quickly as two wheel drive.
- Always wear your safety belt. You and your passengers absolutely need this protection even in low-speed "fender-bender" crashes that frequently occur on slick roads.
- Leave plenty of room for snowplows. By law, you must stay back at least 200 feet from the rear of a snowplow.
- Obey the "Move Over" Law, which requires drivers to shift lanes or slow down in order to provide a safety zone for a law enforcement vehicle, tow truck, ambulance, fire truck, highway maintenance vehicle, or utility vehicle that is stopped on the side of a road with its warning lights flashing.
- If your vehicle slides off the road, gets stuck, or becomes disabled, stay inside it if at all possible with your seat belt fastened until a tow truck or other help arrives. If you're inside your vehicle and buckled up, you have protection against out-of-control vehicles. There's no protection outside your vehicle.
- Ice can increase the weight of tree branches by 30 times.
- A half inch accumulation of ice on power lines can add 500 pounds of extra weight.
Record Breaking Wisconsin Winter Weather Facts
So far winter has been pretty mild in the Chippewa Valley. We’re lucky the mercury hasn’t gone anywhere near the lowest temperature ever recorded in the state of Wisconsin: On Feb. 2, 1996, and again two days later, the thermometer plunged to 55 below zero in the Sawyer County village of Couderay.
Heaviest 24-Hour Snowfall
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the heaviest 24-hour snowfall in Wisconsin history occurred Dec. 26-27, 1904, when 26 inches fell on Neillsville. (The largest snowfall in Eau Claire was much more recent: 22 inches fell in the city on Dec. 11, 2010.)
As seasoned Wisconsinites know, snow has a habit of piling up over the course of the winter. The deepest accumulation of snow on record in the Badger State was the 83 inches – that’s nearly 7 feet! – measured on April 3, 1933, in the Flambeau Reservoir of far northern Wisconsin.
Most Snow in a Season
Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is notorious for heavy snowfalls, and the extreme weather sometimes spills over onto the Wisconsin side of the state line. Our state’s greatest seasonal total for snow was during the winter of 1996-97 in Hurley, when 295.4 inches were measured. That’s almost 25 feet!
Highest Winter Temperature
In an era of weird weather and shifting climates, winter extremes aren’t always of the cold-and-snowy variety. Consider one of Wisconsin’s most recently established all-time records. The warmest winter temperature in state history was recorded on Feb. 26, 2000, when it was a balmy 69 degrees in Afton, Beloit, and Brodhead.
Sources: Wisconsin State Climatology Office, State Climate Extremes Committee of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration