Governor Scott Walker has declared November 10-14, 2014 as Winter Awareness Week in Wisconsin.
The annual campaign, sponsored by Wisconsin Emergency Management (WEM), its ReadyWisconsin preparedness program and NOAA’s National Weather Service (NWS), is to remind people to be prepared for winter conditions that could threaten their safety.
“The number one thing to do: make sure you have an emergency supply kit in your car, it could save your life,” says Brian Satula, Wisconsin Emergency Management Administrator.
Winter storms are considered deceptive killers because most deaths are indirectly related to the storm.
For example, in the last five years Wisconsin has averaged 18,000 motor vehicle crashes during winter months. On average, 45 people are killed each year and more than 4700 injured on icy or snow-covered roads. Carbon monoxide poisoning is also a danger.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, carbon monoxide is the leading cause of accidental poisoning deaths in the United States, with more than 20,000 people visiting the emergency room and nearly 500 killed each year from overexposure to the gas.
Now is the time to winterize your car and home, gather items for an emergency kit in your car, and make sure you have a NOAA Weather Radio with fresh batteries. Additional winter weather tips and how to put together a winter emergency kit are available at the ReadyWisconsin website.
Residents also can sign up for a chance to win an emergency winter kit. The web address is readywisconsin.wi.gov. In addition, there are numerous winter storm maps and a history of Wisconsin’s winter weather produced by the National Weather Service.
Surviving Winter: Be Prepared
Some of the dangers associated with winter storms include loss of heat, power and telephone service and a shortage of supplies. To help protect your family, now is the time to put together a disaster supply kit. Here are some items to include:
- Flashlights and extra batteries
- Battery-powered NOAA Weather Radio and a commercial radio
- Bottled water and non-perishable food that requires no cooking
- First-aid supplies
- Fire extinguisher, smoke detector and carbon monoxide detector
- If appropriate, extra medications and baby items
- If you have an emergency heating source such as a fireplace or space heater, make sure you have proper ventilation
- Make sure pets have shelter and plenty of food and water
Use caution when using alternative heating sources such as space heaters.
- Keep anything flammable at least three feet away from heating equipment.
- Make sure portable electric space heaters have an automatic shut-off.
- Space heaters need constant watching. Never leave a space heater on when you leave a room or go to sleep. Never place a space heater close to any sleeping person.
- Make sure all cords on electric heaters are plugged directly into wall outlet (don’t use an extension cord) and check cord for any frays or breaks in the insulation surrounding the wires.
- Check the cord and outlet occasionally for overheating; if it feels hot, discontinue use.
- Place the heater on a level, hard and nonflammable surface, not on rugs or carpets or near bedding or drapes.
- Use a heater that has been tested to the latest safety standards and certified by a nationally recognized testing laboratory. These heaters will have the most up to date safety features; older space heaters may not meet the newer safety standards.
Winter Driving in Wisconsin
It is important for all of us to prepare for the power of winter storms. Here are some more winter facts:
- In the last five years Wisconsin has averaged 18,000 motor vehicle crashes during the winter months when roads are covered with ice, snow or slush.
- On average, 45 people are killed and 4,700 injured in Wisconsin each winter season in accidents when roads are covered in ice, snow and slush.
- Many crashes are caused by “driving too fast for current conditions.” Also, when the first blast of winter arrives, motorists often need to “re-learn” how to drive in slippery conditions.
- Heavy rains and melted snow in late winter or early spring can result in flooded roads. Turn Around—Don’t Drown™! (Turn Around Don’t Drown™ is a NOAA National Weather Service campaign to warn people of the hazards of walking or driving a vehicle through flood waters)
Plan your travels and check the latest weather reports to avoid a winter storm. You can find out the latest road conditions by visiting the Wisconsin Department of Transportation travel information website at www.511wi.gov or by calling 511.
It is also important to check and winterize your vehicles before the winter season begins. Keep your gas tank near full to avoid ice in the tank and fuel lines. Make sure your car’s battery is in good shape – cold temperatures can reduce the effectiveness of a battery by 50 percent.
If expecting adverse weather during your trip, tell someone at both ends of your journey where you are going and the route you intend to take. Report your safe arrival. Make certain that both parties have your cell phone number and license plate number before you start your trip.
Here are some Driving tips:
- Be gentle with both the accelerator and brake.
- Don’t use cruise control in wintery conditions.
- Don’t be overconfident in your four-wheel drive vehicle.
- You may get going quicker than others but you can’t stop faster. Four-wheel drive vehicles can lose traction as quickly as two-wheel drive.
Carry emergency supplies in your car just in case:
- Carry a winter storm survival kit in the back seat of your vehicle (in case your trunk jams or is frozen shut) that includes:
- Blankets or sleeping bags
- Flashlight with extra batteries
- First-aid kit
- Shovel, tools, booster cables and windshield scraper
- High-calorie non-perishable food (raisins, candy bars, energy/protein bars, etc.)
- Sand or cat litter to use for traction
- Cell phone adapter
Safety First – Stay Informed
The National Weather Service (NWS) issues winter storm warnings and watches. Here’s what they mean and what you should do.
Winter Storm Watch – Winter storm conditions (heavy snow, sleet and freezing rain) are possible within the next 36-48 hours. Continue monitoring the weather forecast.
Winter Storm or Ice Storm Warning – A significant winter event is occurring or will begin in the next 24 hours. The combination of snow, sleet, freezing rain and moderate winds will impact travel and outdoor activities. An Ice Storm Warning is issued when mostly freezing rain is expected with ice accumulations of 1/4 inch or more within a 12-hour period. Take necessary precautions – consider canceling travel plans.
Blizzard Warning – A dangerous event with winds that are 35 mph or greater in combination with falling and/or blowing snow that reduces visibility to 1/4 mile or less for a duration of at least 3 hours.
What is possible? Residents can expect almost anything, ranging from killer dense fog and flooding rains to widespread heavy snows and blizzards that can isolate a village/city for days. The only month without a tornado in Wisconsin’s history is February! Be ready!
Wisconsin Winter Weather Facts – National Weather Service
- The coldest temperature in the winter of 2013-14 was -38 at Ladysmith (Rusk County) on December 31, 2013.
- Upson (Iron County) had the most snow with 171.1 inches in the 2013-14 winter season, while Juneau (Dodge County) had the least with only 33.6 inches. Most of the central and southern counties had 50 to 70 inches which was well above normal.
- Wisconsin’s all-time, lowest temperature is -55°F on February 2 & 4, 1996, near Couderay (Sawyer Co.). Readings of -30°F or colder have been recorded in every month from November through April. Of course, brief readings in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s are possible during winter as well!
- Average annual snowfall ranges from 32 to 40 inches near the Illinois border to 135 to 168 inches in the Iron County snow-belt from Gurney to Hurley. The extremes are 31.9 inches in Beloit, Rock County to 167.5 inches in Hurley, Iron County, for the period of 1981-2010.
Official snowfall records
- Greatest daily total – Pell Lake, 26 inches of snow on Feb. 2, 2011 and Neillsville, 26 inches on December 27, 1904.
- Greatest single storm total – Superior, 31.0 inches over Oct. 31-Nov. 2, 1991.
- Greatest monthly total – Hurley, 103.5 inches in Jan. 1997.
- Greatest seasonal total – Hurley, 301.8 inches in winter of 1996-97.
- Deepest snow on ground (excluding drifts) – Hurley, 60 inches on Jan. 30, 1996.
Keep Warm and Safe
Frostbite is damage to body tissue caused by extreme cold. A wind chill around –20°F could cause frostbite in just 15 minutes or less. Frostbite causes a loss of feeling and a white or pale appearance in extremities such as fingers, toes, ear tips or the tip of the nose. If symptoms are detected, seek medical care immediately!
Hypothermia is a condition that develops when the body temperature drops below 95°F. It is very deadly. Warning signs include uncontrollable shivering, disorientation, slurred speech and drowsiness. Seek medical care immediately!
Overexertion is dangerous. Cold weather puts an added strain on the heart. Unaccustomed exercise such as shoveling snow or pushing a car can bring on a heart attack or make an existing medical condition worse.
Pets also need extra care when the temperatures fall. They should be brought inside when the temperature reaches 30°F with wind chill. Dogs and cats can get frost bitten ears, nose and feet if left outside during bitter cold weather. Chemicals used to melt snow and ice can also irritate pets’ paws – be sure to keep anti-freeze, salt and other poisons away from pets.
Click on the image above for an informative brochure about winter safety preparedness.