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Highway 33 Ice Crash

Among the dozens of weather-related calls to city and county authorities over the weekend, the Columbia County Sheriff's Office responded to a crash on Highway 33 near Saddle Ridge, east of Portage, on Monday morning where a man driving with a child in a car seat suffered minor injuries after snow and ice debris blew off the vehicle in front of him, crashing into his truck, with a piece of ice smashing his windshield.


Weather-related challenges continued Monday as residents dug themselves out of snow drifts that covered layers of frozen rain from the weekend.

At about 11 a.m. Monday, the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office responded to a call on Highway 33 near Saddle Ridge, east of Portage, where a chunk of ice had broken through the windshield of an SUV.

“They had some minor injuries with an adult male and a juvenile in a car seat,” said Columbia County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Wayne Smith. “They were travelling westbound on 33 near Saddle Ridge when the vehicle in front of his had snow on the roof and impacted his vehicle causing damage to the headlight, hood and windshield.”

It was one of 16 vehicle crashes — three with injuries requiring emergency medical services, including a two-vehicle crash Saturday morning in the town of Lewiston that killed a 30-year-old Portage woman and sent four others to the hospital.

Officers also responded to 15 slide-offs, 30 road hazards such as tree branches blocking highways, and 16 other weather-related calls like “a tree branch on a power line and that kind of thing.”

In the Portage area, 10 outages were reported by Alliant Energy, according to spokesman Scott Reigstad, with most of those affecting less than 10 customers. Early Saturday morning, power went out for 144 customers around Rowley Road near the Petro Portage in southwest Portage.

Power outages in Columbia County peaked at just over 3,000 homes Saturday afternoon, largely in Poynette and Arlington.

Over the weekend Portage police officers responded to seven crashes and slide-offs, including one Monday morning.

Smith described the circumstances of Monday morning’s crash on Highway 33 as not a frequent occurrence, but also not entirely uncommon.

“It happens a lot where snow and things break off a car and hit the car behind them, but it doesn’t happen with great frequency that the windshield shatters like this one did,” said Smith. “If you’re the person driving your car with snow on your vehicle, that can impact the handling characteristics of your car with the extra weight, and it can break off when you brake and obscure your vision. It’s just dangerous for the person in the vehicle and anyone near them.”

The results of the weekend storm varied widely in a relatively small area, according to the National Weather Service, which reported snowfall from the prior 72 hours as 5 inches in Portage and Wisconsin Dells, 6.7 inches in Friendship and 8.5 inches in Mauston. The heaviest snowfall totals were recorded in northern Wisconsin, where up to two feet of snow fell in and around Brown County, causing the roofs of several buildings to collapse.

The National Weather Service forecasts mixed weather through the week including snow, sleet and rain, with highs in the 40s and lows in the 20s.