As the showers of sleet and icy rain turned into snow on Monday evening, it was abundantly clear that a major winter storm was descending across southern Wisconsin, complete with numerous school closings, event cancellations, and municipal snow emergencies.
Madison declared its first snow emergency of the season early Tuesday morning. This puts into effect a series of winter parking regulations designed to assist plowing efforts throughout the city.
Drivers are asked to move their vehicles to other locations if at all possible, as alternate side parking restrictions are now in effect. Cars are to be parked on the even house numbered side of streets on Tuesday, December 9, and then should be parked on the odd house numbered side of the street on Wednesday, December 10. The emergency currently remains in effect until 7 a.m. on Thursday, December 11.
Fines for violations of these snow emergency parking rules were increased after last winter's record-breaking snowfall. "In the Snow Emergency Zone, the parking violation has increased from $30 to $60," details the city in its online winter update center. "In the Alternate Side Parking Zone, the parking violation will remain at $20 unless there is a Declared Snow Emergency then the parking violation will be increased to $60. When there is a Declared Snow Emergency, the entire City must abide by the alternate side parking ordinance or they will be subject to a parking violation fine of $60." Parking violators may also be towed.
During a snow emergency, free parking is available from 9 p.m. through 7 a.m. in the cashiered sections of city-owned ramps across the downtown. Cars parked during daytime hours will continue to be charged, though, and the city reminds drivers that regular ramp enforcement will continue through the storm. More free parking is available at three city parks: the lot at Burr Jones Park, the boat landing lot on the north side of Tenney Park, and beach lot at Olbrich Park.
As would be expected in these conditions, Madison Metro buses are running late, though regular route operations will be maintained as permitted by conditions. Ongoing updates on both winter transit and parking in the city can be received via cell phone text and email alerts via My City of Madison.
The city warns that it is unlawful for snow to be left in or moved to the streets. "Due to the high volume of snow we are seeing many plow contractors push snow from parking lots and sidewalks onto the street," says Madison Streets Division spokesperson George Dreckmann in the statement announcing the emergency. "Snow left in the street creates driving hazards and slows plowing operations. If snow is pushed across streets, contractors are obligated to remove all snow from the road."
Other communities around Dane County have followed suit with additional declarations invoking winter parking rules, including Monona, Stoughton, and others.
Most of Wisconsin is under a Winter Storm Warning. As of 6 a.m. on Monday morning, the storm had blazed a wide swath of snow and wind across the southern portion of the state. The heaviest snowfall totals approached 8 inches in the Wisconsin River valley and on eastwards towards Lake Michigan, with some 4 to 6 inches falling in Madison. More is expected through the day, though, and the warning currently remains in effect until 6 p.m.
"Most of Wisconsin will continue to feel the effects of a winter storm passing through the Midwest and into the Great Lakes today into tonight," notes the National Weather Service in a report on the "Winter storm conditions will continue to be felt across much of central and southern Wisconsin. A band of heavy snowfall of 8 to 12 inches is likely over a good portion of central Wisconsin, from around Manitowoc to Baraboo, Lone Rock, Portage, Beaver Dam, West Bend and Sheboygan."
Moderate snow is forecast to continue through Tuesday, with accumulations of as much as one-half to one inch per hour possible, with an additional total of some 3 to 5 inches possible by afternoon. Steady winds are the most significant factor in this storm, reducing visibilities to less than a mile and making for hazardous travel conditions on all types of roads.