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A cold Thursday will give way to ice and a big snowstorm Friday into Saturday for Wisconsin, with the track of the storm determining which areas get the most snow and which get less snow with more ice, according to forecasters.
Wind chills tumbled to 10 to 15 below over parts of south-central Wisconsin early Thursday. At 6:53 a.m., it was just 5 at the Dane County Regional Airport, with a wind chill of 15 below.
A winter storm watch has been issued for Friday into Saturday for Iowa, Minnesota, and western Wisconsin, including the counties of Adams, Crawford, Grant, Juneau, Richland and to the north.
The National Weather Service said the storm could deliver 2 to 4 inches of snow and less than a tenth of an inch of ice to Madison, 4 to 7 inches of snow to La Crosse, 5 to 11 inches to Eau Claire, around 4 inches to Green Bay, and 3 to 5 inches to Racine.
The powerful storm system will first impact the West Coast through Thursday, bringing snow to places like Portland, Oregon, and Seattle, and rain and mountain snow to California, AccuWeather said.
Meanwhile, cold air will settle in across the Plains and Great Lakes through Thursday, laying the groundwork for accumulating snow across the northern tier Friday and Saturday.
A wintry mixture is expected starting Thursday night from the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles into Kansas and Missouri before the Friday morning commute.
As the storm moves to the northeast into Friday, an icy mixture will spread across the Midwest, with accumulating snow spreading across the northern tier on Friday.
"Parts of Missouri, southeastern Iowa and central Illinois may have enough ice on trees to raise the risk of power outages as well," AccuWeather Meteorologist Courtney Travis said.
Once the snow ends Saturday night, there will be a swath of 6 to 12 inches of snow, with portions of Minnesota, Wisconsin and northern Michigan possibly getting more than a foot.
The Weather Service said there is uncertainty on the exact track of the system and therefore how much mixed precipitation falls later Friday night into early Saturday.
Once the storm moves out, more cold air moves in, with wind chills expected to fall to 10 to 20 below zero Saturday night and again Sunday night.
And a weakening polar vortex means much colder weather is on tap for the second half of January, AccuWeather said.
In Madison on Thursday, look for sunny skies, a high near 15 and northwest winds at 10 to 15 miles per hour and gusting to 25 mph producing wind chill values of 10 below to zero, the Weather Service said.
After an overnight low around 4, with wind chill values of 10 below to zero, Friday’s forecast features a 90% chance for snow, mainly after 3 p.m., with possible accumulation of less than a half-inch, a high near 28. And southeast winds at 5 to 15 mph producing wind chill values of 5 below to 5.
The chance for precipitation is 100% Friday night and 80% Saturday, in the form of snow and freezing rain before 4 a.m., then rain possibly mixed with snow before noon, snow and freezing rain between noon and 1 p.m., and snow after 1 p.m., with possible accumulation of 1 to 3 inches of snow and less than a tenth of an inch of ice Friday night, and less than a half-inch of snow and little to no ice Saturday.
The low Friday night will be around 27, with temperatures falling to around 24 by 5 p.m. and winds gusting to 35 mph Saturday.
The Weather Service said quiet weather will follow the storm into the middle of next week: Skies over Madison will be partly sunny Sunday, Mostly sunny Monday, sunny Tuesday, and mostly sunny Wednesday, with highs near 13, 15, 20 and 28, and lows Saturday night through Tuesday night around 5, 1, 2 and 20.
Wednesday’s high in Madison was 32 at 2:40 p.m., 6 degrees above the normal high and 22 degrees below the record high of 54 for Jan. 15, set in 1953.
Wednesday’s low in Madison was 19 at 6:22 a.m., 8 degrees above the normal low and 49 degrees above the record low of 30 below for Jan. 15, set in 1963.
Officially, 0.02 inches of precipitation was recorded at the Dane County Regional Airport on Wednesday, boosting Madison’s January and 2020 precipitation total (rain plus snow converted to liquid) to 0.72 inches, 0.11 inches above normal. The meteorological winter (December through February) total rose to 2.24 inches, 0.11 inches below normal.
Madison’s record precipitation for Jan. 15 is 1 inch, set in 1906.
Officially, 0.3 inches of snow was recorded at the Dane County Regional Airport on Wednesday, boosting Madison’s January and 2020 snow total to 6.7 inches, 0.5 inches above normal. For meteorological winter, Madison has received 9.6 inches, 10.1 inches below normal. For the snow season (since July 1), Madison has received 25.3 inches, 1.5 inches above normal.
Madison’s record snowfall for Jan. 15 is 4.5 inches, set in 2018.
Madison’s official snow depth is 2 inches.