A half-foot of wet snow fell on Eau Claire between Tuesday night and mid-day Wednesday, which was on the light end of expectations for the winter storm.
Though thousands in the area had to cope with power outages on Wednesday morning, travel conditions proved better than forecasts had anticipated.
“Better than I’d expected,” Steven Thompson, Eau Claire’s street maintenance manager said of the storm’s impact on the city.
Eau Claire’s full fleet of 42 plows — many driven by employees who had been off for hunting or the Thanksgiving holiday but agreed to come into work — were patrolling Eau Claire streets throughout Wednesday.
With main roads clear of the bulk of the overnight snow and just a little still falling in the morning, plow crews switched at about 10 a.m. to clean off quiet residential streets.
“It’s going to be a little slower because the snow is heavier and wet,” he said.
Thompson expected the citywide plowing would be finished by about 8 p.m.
A smaller crew of about 14 drivers would be working overnight Wednesday on cleanup duty — plowing spots on streets where cars had been parked earlier in the day.
Eau Claire benefited from being closer to the center of the winter storm that swept through the area, cozying up next to a low pressure area with warmer air. Forecasts had warned of up to a foot of snow in Eau Claire, but the city’s official tally turned out to be 6 inches of accumulation.
“Temperatures were right around freezing for most of the event,” said meteorologist Brent Hewett of the National Weather Service’s office in the Twin Cities area.
But parts of the Chippewa Valley north and west of Eau Claire saw 8 to 11 inches of snow from the storm.
“A 10-mile drive can make a world of difference between 5 inches and a foot of snow,” Hewett said.
Snow gauges in Chippewa Falls reported 10 inches, akin to what was seen in Bloomer. The Menomoine area had about 9 inches of snow.
Eau Claire’s heavy wet snow did take its toll on tree limbs, bringing some down on power lines and cutting electricity to thousands of people on Wednesday morning.
More than 12,200 Xcel Energy customers — mostly in the Eau Claire area — experienced a power outage, according to the utility company spokeswoman Chris Ouellette. For about half of them it was momentary, but others were without electricity for a few hours as crews made repairs.
Over 1,500 rural customers of Eau Claire Energy Cooperative lost power during Tuesday night and into Wednesday, according to a news release. Crews had been working overnight and into Wednesday to restore power.
In addition to its plow trucks, the city of Eau Claire also had two forestry crews working on Wednesday to remove downed trees from roads, Thompson said.
For this weekend, there is a mix of snow and rain in the forecast.
A slow-moving winter storm will make its way over the Eau Claire area, dropping light snow on Friday night, switching to rain on Saturday and then back to snow on Sunday morning.
Despite the precipitation, Hewett is expecting driving conditions to be good during the busy travel weekend after Thanksgiving.
Rain and temperatures going above freezing on Saturday will help melt snow on the ground, he said, and only 1 to 3 inches of light snow are predicted for Sunday in Eau Claire.