SECOND UPDATE: Storm takes out power across area
An unprecedented wet, heavy May snowfall that continues to blanket western Wisconsin cut off power to thousands of homes and closed schools and some roads due to utility wires being downed by broken trees and branches.
Municipal workers in Ellsworth said the village had 16 inches of snow as of 9 a.m. this morning and more was coming down. Snowfall seemed to be heaviest in that area with others reporting as much as 12 inches.
The storm took out electric service through a wide swath of Pierce County.
As of 9:45 a.m. about 1,000 Pierce-Pepin Cooperative Services customers were still without power. At the storm's worst, 1,300 homes were without electricity, said co-op spokesman Chris Tackmann.
He said work - which involves removing trees from power lines and repairing downed lines -- will continue through the day. Two crews from Riverland Energy Cooperative, Arcadia, are helping.
The townships affected by the Pierce-Pepin outage include Martell, Ellsworth, River Falls, Salem, Trenton, Diamond Bluff, Gilman, El Paso, Trimbelle, Clifton, Hartland, Kinnickinnic and Oak Grove.
As of 9 a.m., Xcel Energy was reporting about 9,700 customers without power, stretching along a line from Ellsworth to Hayward, either side of Hwy. 63 and south, including villages of Woodville, Elmwood, Plum City and Durand.
The outage in the Woodville area prompted an advisory to firefighters there that they'd be using tanker-carried water to fight any blaze that might occur due to limited pumping capacity in the village.
Xcel spokesman Brian Elwood said crews have been out all night and "it's going to be a long effort" to get many customers back on-line. Most of the problems are linked to branches and broken trees, downing power lines. Some poles have also been tipped by the heavy, wet snow.
Pierce County Highway Department crews were wielding chainsaws along with plows early Thursday with numerous trees and branches reported down along County Roads D and C, in the Bay City area as well as along Hwy. 35.
St. Croix Electric Co-op reported scattered outages.
St. Croix Electric President Mark Pendergast said crews will likely be out all day restoring power to customers.
"Most of our problems are north to south between New Richmond on the west and Woodville to the east," he said. "We had two substations out north and south of Baldwin for a time -- cutting power to 700 members for up to 90 minutes. Restoration is moving along pretty quick but it's likely to be an all-day affair with many smaller outages to get to."
These schools are closed: River Falls, New Richmond, Hudson, Ellsworth, Elmwood, St. Croix Central, Spring Valley, Amery, Baldwin-Woodville, Clear Lake, Menomonie and Durand.
The Wisconsin Department of Transportation issued a press release asking motorists to stay home.
With more snow expected throughout the day, drivers are being asked to refrain from travelling unless absolutely necessary throughout most of the region as the Winter Storm Warning continues for many counties in northwestern Wisconsin.
The Northwest Region State Patrol has responded to about a dozen runs-offs and crashes on the I-94 and US 53 corridors, including one fatality overnight in Dunn County.
Highway crews have been out plowing state highways most of the night and will continue throughout the day, but are having a difficult time keeping up with the snowfall. The wet snow has also been difficult to move out of the way, slowing down the plowing operations.
If you must travel, check winter road conditions before leaving home by calling 5-1-1 or visiting 511wi.gov.