Winter in Wisconsin is great for outdoor activities, but the cold and snow can also pose serious safety risks for everyone in the state. To help Wisconsin plan for the months ahead, Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers has declared Winter Weather Awareness Week November 13-17 in Wisconsin.
“When the winds blow and the snow starts falling, it’s important that all Wisconsinites know what to do so they can stay safe,” said Greg Engel, Wisconsin Director of Emergency Management. “During Winter Weather Awareness Week, everyone is encouraged to take the time to update their emergency kits and make sure their vehicles are prepared for the ice and snow that often cover the roads.”
Staying informed is an important part of preparing for winter. Be sure to check the National Weather Service and other trusted local sources daily for forecasts. If heavy snow or ice is expected, prepare by stocking up on extra supplies, making sure you have an emergency kit at home and in your car, and have a plan for what to do if the power goes out at home.
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According to the National Weather Service, Wisconsin sees an average of three to six winter storms during the season. During the 2022-23 winter season, the state’s highest single-day snowfall total of 19.5 inches was reported on April 17, 2023 on Melrose in Jackson County. Bayfield in Bayfield County recorded 182.9 inches of snow last winter, making it the highest seasonal snowfall total in the state. The coldest temperature recorded in Wisconsin last winter was -29 degrees Fahrenheit on January 31, 2023 in Barron County near Ridgeland and again on February 4, 2023 in Butternut in Ashland County.
Freezing temperatures in the winter months can be dangerous for many people, leading to cold-related illnesses and injuries such as hypothermia and frostbite. There were 94 cold-related deaths in the state during the winter months of 2022-2023*, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services. There were an average of 996 emergency department visits and 387 hospitalizations in the state for cold-related illnesses during the winters of 2018-2019 through 2021-2022. Prepare for cold temperatures by dressing appropriately for the weather and limiting your time outdoors during periods of extreme cold.
Ice and snow on roads continue to pose a major threat to drivers across the state, causing thousands of car accidents each year. Preliminary data from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation shows 41 people were killed and 3,573 people were injured in the state during 2022 in crashes related to winter road conditions.
While driving in snow or ice, stay distracted and adjust your speed to suit the current conditions. Use 511 Wisconsin to check travel conditions before leaving home. This information, along with live traffic cameras and traffic alerts, can be accessed through the free 511 Wisconsin mobile app or mobile-friendly website www.511wi.gov.
At home or in your car, your winter emergency kit should include items such as food, water, a flashlight, batteries, and blankets. Include a snow shovel in your car, extra gloves and hats, a cell phone charger, and kitty litter or sand to help keep your wheels stable on icy roads if your car breaks down.
Prepare your home by maintaining your furnace regularly. Check doorways and windows for signs that cold air is being allowed into your home. Test carbon monoxide detectors to make sure they are working properly and have new batteries. Keep any free-standing heaters away from curtains or other objects that could catch fire.
Follow ReadyWisconsin on Facebook, X and Instagram for tips throughout the winter months and updates on dangerous weather conditions.
*Data for 2022 and 2023 are provisional and subject to change.