Wisconsin Emergency Management

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

Wisconsin Emergency Management's ReadyWisconsin program reminds residents to 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

Winter_Driving It is important for all of us to prepare for the power of winter storms. Few of us will forget the Groundhog Day Blizzard of 2011.

Between January 31 and Feb 2, parts of the state had snowfall totals between 12 and 33 inches with wind gusts between 40 and 65 miles and hour. Schools and businesses closed and thousands headed warning and stayed home in the near-paralyzing event. 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 conditionas. 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 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
  • Click here for more info on Snowplow Safety

Safety First - Stay Informed 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.

For additional information, contact your county emergency management office, the National Weather Service or ReadyWisconsin. Tips on winter safety, developing your own personal preparedness plan and building an emergency kit can also be found at the following website: http://www.weather.gov

Winter Awareness Media Packet

Listen to ReadyWisconsin Winter Awareness PSA for radio (mp3)

Prepare For Severe Winter Weather Now

ReadyWisconsin Public Service Message

FEMA Public Service Message

Wisconsin Winter Statistics
Click On Maps To Enlarge

Snowfall Totals

Winter Storm Averages
Per County

1982-83 through 2013-14

1982-83 through 2013-14

Ice Storms
1982-83 through 2013-14

Winter Storms
1982-83 through 2013-14

ReadyWisconsin is an initiative of Wisconsin Emergency Management designed to educate and empower Wisconsinites to prepare for
and respond to all kinds of emergencies including natural disasters and potential terrorist attacks.

Wisconsin Emergency Management
2400 Wright St.
Madison, WI 53704
Phone: 608.242.3232     Fax: 608.242.3247