This week's storm, now dubbed the Groundhog Blizzard of 2011 by the National Weather Service, left Madison bus stops snowbound, city streets narrowed by drifts and mountains of snow across the region.
Experts confirm the storm was historic, spreading a mix of snow, sleet and freezing rain across 30 states from the center of the nation through the Northeast, forcing airlines to cancel thousands of flights and making highway travel daunting.
National Weather Service Sullivan meteorologist Ashley Sears said it is difficult to rank this week's blizzard in Wisconsin because of the multiple storms that came through beforehand, producing a few inches of snow.
"This was a very dangerous storm, and it was one of the worst we have had in a long time, but as of right now, it is not looking like it was the worst we have had," Sears said Thursday.
For example, it didn't compare to March of 1881 when nearly 48 inches of snow were said to have fallen in Madison over two days and snowdrifts reached heights of 20 feet, according to state climatologist Edward Hopkins.
But Tuesday had a daily snowfall record of 8.3 inches, the NWS said, and the 18.7 inches that fell from Monday through Wednesday came in tied for second for a 72-hour snowfall record in Madison.
One East Side woman went to the hospital Thursday for carbon monoxide poisoning after the furnace in her duplex at appeared to have malfunctioned, and two Prairie Du Sac families were driven from their rental units after a fire Wednesday night.
Firefighters and paramedics were called to 1027 Jana Lane at 11:03 a.m. after an MGE worker, called earlier because the renter in the neighboring unit had reported a detector going off in his unit, reported high levels of CO in the adjacent unit, Madison Fire Department spokeswoman Lori Wirth said Thursday.
Overnight Tuesday in Middleton, Mayor Kurt Sonnentag said police responded to four accidents that could likely be chalked up to weather in addition to 22 weather-related citizen assist calls, including eight vehicles left abandoned in the roadway.
Even if few records fell, the blizzard spawned a large-scale snow cleanup in the region.
Madison Streets Superintendent Al Schumacher on Thursday said crews will be working for weeks to remove all the snow piled up on streets, in medians, on corners and at bus stops.
Salters were able to put road salt on the city's main arterials Wednesday afternoon because temperatures rose above 15, the mark where salt starts to work. Salt wasn't applied on Thursday because of the frigid temperatures, Schumacher said, but salt will be used Friday as highs are expected to reach the mid-20s.
But Schumacher said very few of the city's 1,662 bus stops had been cleared by Thursday because public safety — vision hazards and narrow streets — was more urgent. He said the city will begin Friday using private contractors to help clear the bus stops more quickly.
Meanwhile, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation on Thursday said crews were still out in many areas, removing stranded vehicles and removing snow.
Motorists can dial 511 or go to www.511wi.gov to get the latest information on road conditions on main routes across Wisconsin.