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The Cold Filtered Ramblings of Gene Mueller

"...Of Biblical Proportions."

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          See your future.    Be your future.


          My daughter had hoped to make the trek from her St. Norbert dorm room to Chicago for a concert Tuesday night, returning to class Wednesday morning at eight.      She called the Old Man, figuring that I'd have some sort of insight that mere mortals don't.      I don't, so I came to this website.     I'd been on the air all morning, telling the story of a pending 14 inches that was about to rock our world.       Nothing braced me for what I'd see when I got home and checked back here for an update.


         Needless to say, my daughter is staying put tonight.    Study well, dear.     That rock music will just rot your mind.      Trust me.    I played that stuff on the radio for decades.     I'm lucky I can walk upright, much less form sentences.


        The latest forecast says isolated areas could get 20 inches of snow by Wednesday night.     20 FLIPPING INCHES!       What started out Monday morning as "a chance of snow" has now bloated into what could safely be called a storm of biblical proportions.   Okay, I admit it: there is no firm line that delineates what qualifies as "biblical", but let's just say I've lived long enough to experience a few big ones and this, if it holds, promises to be among the largest.


       A Google search of "biblical flipping snow storms/Milwaukee" produced nothing useful.   I chanced "biblical" to "historic" and left out "flipping" and got this from the NWS:       


From 1896 to Present

November 5, 1896. 14.6 inches.

Heaviest snowfall on record for so early in the season. Snow had all melted within five days.

January 12, 1908. 16.0 inches.

Heavy snow accompanied by high north winds prevailed all day. Snow stuck to trees and wires causing many to break. Street car service crippled.

April 15-16, 1921. 15.0 inches.

Snowstorm accompanied by very high winds which was quite unusual because of the lateness of the season. Three days after the storm had ended only a trace remained on the ground due to rapid melting from warmer temperatures.

March 12, 1923. 13.0 inches.

Ranks as third heaviest March snowstorm. Up to $1 million damage. Lowest barometric pressure during the storm was 28.82". Freezing rain occurred with the snowstorm downing wires..awnings..signs and branches. All objects were coated with up to 1 inch thick. Telephone/telegraph poles were downed.

February 4-5, 1924. 20.3 inches.

Still ranks as the most snowfall in a 24-hour period since 1884. The most paralyzing blizzard up to that time. Over $1 million damage. Communication with the outside world was said at the time to be back to the days of the "Indian signal fire". Street car and train service crippled. Drifts of 8 to 10 feet high with considerable ice on trees and wires. Car ferries remained in port. Schools were closed and several plate glass windows broken.

February 3-4, 1936. 9.6 inches.

This snowfall, on top of nearly 10 inches already on the ground, was blown about by very high winds which caused huge drifts. In some neighboring communities complete abandonment of snow removal work occurred. Trains were stalled for periods of more than 24 hours and there were reports of automobile travelers being marooned in farm homes for more than a week!

January 28-30, 1947. 18.0 inches.

Arguably the worst snowstorm that ever struck Milwaukee. The three-day snowfall total from records was 18 inches, but this amount is likely to be far below the actual amount that fell, due to the considerable blowing and drifting. During the height of the storm the winds were northeast at 25 to 45 mph and visibilities were near zero in the moderate to heavy snow and blowing snow. Huge drifts, as high as 15 feet, brought all traffic to a standstill and not until the 31st was partial train and streetcar service restored. All stores, factories, offices, and schools were closed from two to four days with many people stranded in cars, buses, trains, railroad depots, and hotel lobbies. The snowstorm was perhaps the longest, worst, and most costliest in Milwaukee history.

March 8, 1961. 11.2 inches.

A heavy wet snow fell that accumulated very rapidly during the first several hours and was accompanied by northeast winds well in excess of 30 mph. This caused very serious traffic problems.

April 9, 1973. 11.9 inches.

After a relatively mild and snow-less winter, a major early spring snowstorm struck with about a foot of heavy, wet snow accompanied by thunder and lightning and winds gusting in excess of 50 mph. The city was virtually shutdown. The storm led to an overhaul in plowing strategy and equipment. Twelve days later heavy rains on top of snow-melt runoff brought rivers and streams over their banks. Severe flooding occurred along the Root and Fox rivers in Milwaukee, Waukesha, and Racine counties.

December 31, 1978 - January 1, 1979 14.0 inches.

Major snowstorm hit during the New Year's holiday which also happened to fall on a weekend. Winds gusting to 40 mph caused drifts to 6 feet, blocking many rural roads.

January 12-13, 1979. 14.3 inches.

Another major snowstorm followed the New Year's storm by two weeks. Winds gusting to 40 mph caused near blizzard conditions with drifts to 6 to 8 feet blocking many roads. Travel became nearly impossible with many snow plows pulled off the roads.

January 23-24, 1979. 9.5 inches.

Incredibly, less than two weeks later another major snowstorm struck the area with near blizzard conditions and blocked roads. After this storm, record snow depths of nearly three feet were measured. Accumulated snow on roofs of houses, barns, and other buildings caused the roofs to sag greatly or collapse during the month.

January 3-4, 1982. 8.6 inches.

An intense "Lower Mississippi Valley" type winter storm produced very heavy snow in the Milwaukee metro area from the evening of the 3rd to the late morning on the 4th. Temperatures just a few degrees below freezing produced very high water-content snow, which coupled with accompanying northeast winds of 30 to 60 mph, caused considerable damage to trees and power lines. Severe drifting snow produced 3 to 5 foot drifts that closed virtually all roads in the metro area. Thunder and lightning occurred for several hours centered around midnight. Total snow amounts included 16 inches at Germantown, 15 inches on the northwest side of Milwaukee, and 8 inches on the southeast side.

December 15, 1987. 13.1 inches.

Powerful winter storm! Schools..businesses, airports, and most government offices were closed. Numerous accidents were reported along with widespread power outages. The storm began early in the morning and continued for much of the day. At the height of the storm thunder and lightning was observed and winds gusted up to 73 mph. $100,000 damage was inflicted to a Milwaukee harbor pier that was repeatedly struck by a Greek cargo ship whipped by 10 to 15 foot waves! Ten people died of heart attacks and there were dozens of cases of severed fingertips caused by people trying to unclog the heavy wet snow from snow blowers.

November 27, 1995. 9.7 inches.

Major winter storm struck during the afternoon and evening especially during the "rush hour". Thunder and lightning, winds gusting to 50 mph and near zero visibility created the worst traffic "gridlock" in 40 years. What normally would have been a 30 minute commute turned into a 3 to 4 hour nightmare! There were over one thousand vehicle accidents in the metro area and Milwaukee's Mitchell International airport was closed for over 12 hours which added to the burden of travelers. This was the third worst November snowstorm in Milwaukee on record dating back to 1884.

January 8-9, 1998. 12.4 inches.

Low pressure moved north along the eastern shore of Lake Michigan, producing heavy snow. Convective snow bands produced lightning and thunder along with hourly snowfall rates of 1 to 2 inches per hour. The snowfall total of 12.4 inches was the 14th greatest all time snow total for a 24 hour period. Hundreds of motor vehicle accidents were reported.

December 18-19, 2000. 10.5 inches.

An area of low pressure tracked across Iowa, northern Illinois, and northern Indiana with an inverted trough extending north of the low. This storm produced 10.5 inches at Milwaukee General Mitchell International Airport which contributed to Milwaukee's record breaking 49.5 inches for the month. This monthly total was 430% above normal for the month and 105% above normal for the season. This snow also contributed to set a new snow depth record for the month of 32 inches on December 21.

February 11, 2003. 5.0 inches.

Vigorous energy dropping south from Canada produced heavy convective snow squalls during the afternoon across the Midwest. A very heavy burst of snow, accompanied by lightning, thunder, and wind gusts of 40 to 50 mph creating blizzard conditions, lasted for 2 to 2.5 hours during the late afternoon commute along the I-94 corridor. Snowfall rates of around 3 inches per hour and snowflakes around an inch in diameter caused massive problems for the city. Travel times were tripled and Milwaukee General Mitchell International Airport was closed for 2 hours as crews couldn't clear runways fast enough. Total snow fall amounts ranged from 5 to 7 inches across Jefferson, Waukesha, and Milwaukee counties. Some counties across central Illinois had Severe Thunderstorm Warnings issued due to wind gusts of 60 to 75 mph associated with heavy convective snow squalls.

January 21-22, 2005. 11.4 inches.

A fairly normal clipper type system developed in Alberta, Canada and slid southeast into the Lower Great Lakes during the evening hours of January 21. However, unusual amounts of moisture returning north from the Gulf interacted with arctic air just to the north of the low which created heavy snow across most of the Midwest. Cold easterly winds over the warmer waters of Lake Michigan aided in creating even heavier snow over southeast Wisconsin. Snowfall rates overnight on January 22 were in the 2 to 3 inch per hour range at times. Total storm accumulations ranged from generally 7 to 11 inches, with the heaviest totals near the Lake. Additional lake effect snow on January 22 produced an extra 3 to 4 inches across southeast Wisconsin for a 2-day total of 10 to 15 inches. In addition to heavy snow, winds began to strengthen to 20 to 30 mph with gusts to 45 mph by the morning of January 22, producing considerable blowing and drifting snow and blizzard conditions at times. Although hundreds of accidents were reported, the storm swept through on a Friday night and road crews had an easier time clearing roadways without the presence of rush hour traffic on Saturday.

         A cursory check shows that the fabled storm of 1947 remains the all-time champ--it's one of those dumps that our predecessors bragged about surviving.     I remember seeing black and white still photos of stranded cars and trolleys...


      ...and snow reaching second story windows.     

        Lucky us.    If the forecast holds, we'll be able to record the new champ digitally--it can be your new screensaver Thursday morning.     For now, I'm heading out to the driveway to take a few quick shots of my driveway.   

           That'll give me something to remember it by, since it'll probably be buried until June.     Late, late June.


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