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Winter in Wisconsin can be fun and excitiing. Driving in or after an ice storm may be dangerous. Follow these tips and suggestions to keep you and your family safe this winter.

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  • Consider using non-toxic de-icing substances such as clean clay cat litter, sand, or fireplace/stove ash to prevent hazardous waste from chemicals. Chemical de-icers can be hazardous to your pets, your trees and shrubs, and the environment.
  • Winterize your vehicle by checking your air filter and fluid levels, checking tires for tread wear and proper inflation, and checking the condition of your windshield wipers. Ensuring your vehicle is ready for weather changes will keep you safe on the road.
  • If you have a wood-burning fireplace, save your ashes in a tin instead of throwing them away. Cold wood ashes can be mixed in your compost heap to create a valuable soil amendment that provides nutrients to your garden.
  • Winter storms often cause power outages. Prevent waste by keeping rechargeable batteries rather than disposable ones stored throughout your house with your flashlights. If you do use disposable batteries, prevent hazardous waste by buying batteries with low mercury content.
  • Recycle old newspapers by making rolled paper logs for your fireplace. Roll newspaper sheets around a broom stick until your log is the desired size; then soak your log thoroughly in water. Dry the log overnight and use like ordinary wood. Always follow proper safety precautions when burning anything around your home.

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  • The coldest temperature in the winter of 2010-11 was -37° Fahrenheit (F) at Ladysmith 3SW (Rusk Co.) on January 22, 2011.
  • The Hurley, WI–Ironwood, MI, area in Iron County had the most snow of 167 inches in the winter of 2010-11, while Waunakee in Dane County had the least with only 37.2 inches. Most of the northern two-thirds of the state had 60 to 95 inches, while the southern third had 40 to 60 inches. The 92.6" in Green Bay during the '10-'11 winter was the highest amount in modern-day history. Only the winters of 1889-90 and 1887-88 had more snow.
  • 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 35 to 40 inches near the Illinois border to 135 to 165 inches in the Iron County snow-belt from Gurney to Hurley.

Official snowfall records

  • Greatest daily total – 26.0 inches of snow, at Neillsville on Dec. 27, 1904, and Pell Lake on Feb. 2, 2011.
  • 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, 60.0 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.

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

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:

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Information and recommendations are compiled from sources believed to be reliable. The Sheriff’s Office  makes no guarantee as to and assumes no responsibility for the correctness, sufficiency or completeness of such information or recommendations. Other or additional safety measures may be required under particular circumstances.

Last Revised: 3/2014