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Outdoor enthusiasts welcome 6.1-inch snowfall

Long hours ahead for plows

posted Jan. 11, 2017 12:00 a.m. (CDT)
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by / Chuck Rupnow. bio | email

  • dr_Snow_5a_011117-3
    Staff photo by Dan Reiland | Enlarge
    - Blowing snow swirls around Paul Gurgel of Eau Claire as he clears snow from his property Tuesday afternoon. A record-setting 6.1 inches of snow was dumped on Eau Claire, with more coming today. View more photos at
  • Steven Thompson
    Dan Reiland | Enlarge
    - Thompson

The snowplows are out, the Eau Claire County snowmobile trails are open, sledding hills are in great shape and Melvin Hartnett couldn't be happier.

“This is Christmas after Christmas,” Hartnett, 54, said Tuesday afternoon, brandishing a wide smile while taking a brief break from shoveling outside his residence on the city's east side.

“Can you believe it? My son-in-law just got a job helping out with a snow-removal company, the grandkids are off school to come here and sled, and I made plans last weekend to go snowmobiling this coming weekend,” he said while wiping melting snow from his glasses. “I feel so lucky that I might even buy a lottery ticket.”

Hartnett's good fortune came on a record-setting day of snowfall for Eau Claire, officially 6.1 inches, according to meteorologist Chris Franks of the National Weather Service in Chanhassen, Minn. It broke the former mark of 4.6 inches for Jan. 10 in 1976.

Franks said the high snow total came as a bit of a surprise, adding that a prediction of about 2 inches of snow today could again multiply.

“It definitely snowed more than we were thinking,” Franks said Tuesday night. "We initially thought we'd get a little more mix, with sleet coming in to cut the snow totals, but it switched over to snow.

“It's just one of those things,” he added. “A band came across and hit western Wisconsin, an enhanced band of snow. I guess you guys were the lucky ones.”

Today's forecast calls for a couple of inches total for the day, but Franks added: “Well, it could happen to you again and you get more than we're thinking.”

The forecast then calls for drier but colder weather, with temps reaching minus 15 on Friday before getting back to 20 on Saturday, he said.

Other area snow totals included 6 inches in Stanley and 5 in the Rice Lake area.

The new snow provided enough to open county snowmobile trails Tuesday afternoon, according to the county's Parks and Forest Department, which urged trail users to abide by state and county regulations, and respect landowners’ property.

Dave Gilson and Bob Visconizi, who were fueling a truck and two snowmobiles Tuesday afternoon in Eau Claire, were eager to hit the trails.

“We went up north earlier, but it's a lot easier and more fun to hit the trails around here and get back home,” Visconizi, 29, said.

“It's nice to get the trails open and meet up with friends at spots around here again,” said Gilson, 32, of Eau Claire. “There were a lot of phone calls once word got out that they were open.”

The city of Eau Claire, which announced a snow event Tuesday afternoon, should have the majority of city streets cleared by midmorning, according to streets maintenance manager Steven Thompson.

The announcement means full residential plowing operations began at 12:01 a.m. today, and alternate-side parking also went into effect at that time and remains until 12:01 a.m. Saturday to allow for full residential plowing.

“I kind of thought we'd get this much,” Thompson said. “I thought it would be over 4.”

The snow event parking regulations:

• On odd-numbered days, vehicles shall be parked, stopped or left standing only on the side of the street having odd-numbered addresses.

• On even-numbered days, vehicles shall be parked, stopped or left standing only on the side of the street having even-numbered addresses.

• The provisions will be in effect between midnight and 5 p.m.

• The provisions do not supersede more restrictive parking regulations in effect in the city.

The city had 25 trucks out plowing and salting Tuesday afternoon, with a total of 30 to 34 vehicles, including pickup trucks and loaders, working after midnight.

The city has 86 miles of ice-control and primary plow routes, which are the major arterial streets, and 195 miles of residential streets. It usually takes about 12 hours to complete full residential plowing.

“We had no incidents with any of our trucks,” Thompson said, “but there was an accident with two vehicles right in front of one of the plows, though.”

Contact: 715-830-5831,, @crupnow on Twitter


The online Wisconsin Snow Report at​snowreport lists trail and hill conditions for snowmobiling, snowboarding, and downhill and cross-country skiing in the state.