Wisconsin ice storm 100 years ago; up to 4" of ice on trees, poles

Exactly 100 years ago on Feb. 22, 1922, Wisconsin endured one of the worst ice storms it has ever seen. 

According to the National Weather Service (NWS), between Feb. 21, 1922 and Feb. 22, 1922, ice accumulations of 1-2 inches, with a few reports of around 4 inches, built up on trees, poles and wires. Property damage was a staggering $10 million in the state. 

"Some homes in Oshkosh were caked with two inches of ice, and people had to crawl out their basement windows and chop their way back in through the front door," said Paul Wolter, Sauk County Historical Society executive director.

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The NWS said light rain and freezing rain began falling across the Upper Mississippi River Valley during the afternoon of Feb. 21. The precipitation intensity increased during the overnight and continued into the evening of Feb. 22 as a surface low pressure system moved northeast from eastern Kansas to southern Lower Michigan.

There were even reports of an occasional thunderstorm across the region. Precipitation amounts were generally in the 1-3 inches range; however, there were a few isolated reports of over 4 inches in central Wisconsin.

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Credit: National Weather Service

The Sauk County Historical Society has a presentation about the 1922 storm Tuesday night in Baraboo. It will be posted on YouTube next week. Historians laugh about the odd timing of Tuesday 2022's smaller storm.

"I think part of the romance of this storm was 2-22-22. They got that back then, we get that now – but it really was a devastating storm," Wolter said.

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