GALLERY: Archive photos, news clips depict aftermath of 1922 ice storm 100 years later

MADISON, Wis. — Freezing rain and sleet fell throughout southern Wisconsin on Tuesday, which for some brought back memories of a winter storm that hit Wisconsin exactly 100 years ago: The Great Ice Storm of 2-22-22.

That storm, which happened on Feb. 22, 1922, was big enough to impact five states in the Midwest and hit nearly all of Wisconsin, according to Executive Director of the Sauk County Historical Society Paul Wolter. In southern Wisconsin, the storm started with rain, while northern parts of the state dealt with crippling freezing rain and blizzard conditions.

“Today is definitely a pale echo of what happened 100 years ago,” Wolter said.

The Great Ice Storm caused widespread damage and power outages stretching from the Twin Cities in Minnesota all the way across Wisconsin to Lake Michigan. Countless trees sustained irreversible damage, an estimated 15,000 utility poles snapped under the weight of the ice, and railways throughout the state were rendered useless under inches of ice.

“It was surreal,” Wolter said. “It was beautiful and devastating all at the same time.”

Local newspapers described the aftermath as devastating, and in some cases compared the damage to “war-torn land.” The storm caused an estimated $15-30 million in damage, which “easily could have been a billion dollars worth of damage” in today’s money, Wolter said.

That damage affected some rural telephone companies so badly that they shut down for good after the storm. Wolter added that many communities went weeks, and some possibly months, without power afterward.

“Pretty much everybody in the state had a story to tell,” Wolter said.

The Sauk County Historical Society planned to hold a presentation on the historic storm Tuesday night at 7 p.m., but spots were limited. The presentation will also be live-streamed online on March 3. Registration for both events is available on the Sauk County Historical Society’s website.