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Some Pierce residents left in the dark by falling limbs but main roads all open

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Thursday's rain, followed by heavy wet snow and high winds left at least 170 Pierce-Pepin Electric patrons without power and had county road maintenance crews out in full force Friday morning.

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As of 4:50 a.m., Hwy. 63 near Hwy. 29 south of the Red Barn was closed by a downed power line for at time and at last check about 8:30 a.m., cars were being allowed through but no trucks until Xcel crews could get it repaired. At 11 a.m., word was received, the spot was cleared. 

Also as of 8:30, Pierce-Pepin's web site indicated the greatest number of outages were in the town of Salem, near Bay City with 122 patrons left in the dark. Town of Hartland was reporting 20 outages with additional problems in town of El Paso and scattered outages in Martell, Trenton, Gilman and Maiden Rock areas.

Statewide, other major electric utilities serving Wisconsin report more than 5500 customers without power.

All state roads in Pierce County were opened by 6 a.m. and as of 8:30 a.m., a fleet of 16-18 truck plows and three motor graders had completed one lap of the 1,100 lane-miles the highway department maintains, according to patrol superintendent Al Thoner.

Crews were seeing some drifting and some downed branches but nothing like the heavy, wet snow that blanketed the area last May, Thoner said.

The goal was to get lanes scraped bare by day's end and get some chemicals down so anticipated sun could burn them clean.

In Madison, officials opened the Emergency Operations Center, staffed by State Emergency Management, the State Patrol, Department of Natural Resources and the Wisconsin National Guard to monitor the situation.

As of 6:30 a.m., officials were still forecasting a total of 13 to 17 inches snowfall in west and northwestern Wisconsin by Friday afternoon with the highest snow near Lake Superior and lower accumulations farther from the lake.

As of 5:30 am, Superior reported 12.4 inches, Ashland 11 inches, and Eau Claire with 7.4 inches. Seeley, in Sawyer County, received 5.5 inches of snow in two hours last night. With snow ending, strong gusting winds become the main concern across the state.

The American Birkebeiner- Race officials say events will continue to take place as scheduled.

Authorities report a partial roof collapse and gas leak at the Kmart on East Clairemont Avenue in Eau Claire. Officials believe the weight of snow on the flat roof was the cause of the collapse. No one was hurt

Late Thursday evening, the Wisconsin State Patrol requested Wisconsin National Guard members to check rest areas along Hwy 53 from Eau Claire to Rice Lake for any stranded motorists. The National Guard found several semi-trucks and a car parked at a wayside near Chetek with all drivers and passengers ok and in no need of assistance.

The Guard mobilized 10 Winter Support Force Packages consisting of approximately 140 Guard members and equipment in seven-person teams, pre-positioned across the state to assist local law enforcement agencies, performing such emergency response duties as helping stranded motorists and performing welfare checks in affected areas.

They were providing 24-hour coverage in 12-hour shifts in Black River Falls, Eau Claire, Hayward, Madison, Mauston, Sparta, Spooner and Sussex.

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Steve Dzubay
Steve Dzubay has been publisher at the River Falls Journal and Hudson Star Observer since 1995. He holds a bachelors degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. He previously worked as a reporter-photographer at small daily newspapers in Minnesota and is past editor of the Pierce County Herald and River Falls Journal.
(715) 426-1054
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