Life-threatening temperatures blast the region

By Correne Martin

The coldest air in nearly two decades is impacting the Midwest, causing all schools and dozens of businesses and government offices around the region to be closed Monday due to temperatures in the 20os below zero and wind chills in the 40o to 60o below range.

The Upper Mississippi River Valley region hasn’t seen temperatures this freezing since Feb. 2-3, 1996, according to the National Weather Service of La Crosse. The frigid air invaded the area on Sunday and is expected to last through Tuesday morning.

Residents have hunkered down following plenty of meteorologists’ warnings about the life-threatening temperatures and their potential ramifications. (Prairie du Chien High School cafeteria and courtyard are open today (Monday) for those seeking shelter from the frigid temperatures.)

Crawford County officials are asking citizens to remain diligent and prepared during this dangerously cold weather. Sheriff Dale McCullick, Emergency Management Director Roger Martin, Public Health Director Gloria Wall and Highway Commissioner Dennis Pelock were all consulted Friday, in advance of the cold air blast.

“We haven’t experienced cold this low since 1996 and the predicted wind chills since 1994,” read a statement from Crawford County Emergency Management released Friday afternoon. “That means most students in K-12 have never experienced this extreme cold.

“We will have fire, EMS and law enforcement on heightened alert throughout this weather event.”

Anyone who experiences problems on the roads, or with their home heating sources, is encouraged to contact a professional service company, the sheriff’s office (326-0241) or the public health director (326-0230) for assistance. In an emergency, call 911.

According to Highway Commissioner Pelock, his crew has taken the precautions necessary to maintain the snow plow fleet so it is ready to keep the roads clear in these below zero temperatures and blowing snow conditions.

The National Weather Service reminds residents about how to stay safe and warm in these temperatures:

•Frostbite can occur within five to 10 minutes if skin is exposed to this air.

•Ensure your pets have warm shelter and fresh water. (Bring them inside if possible.)

•Any exposed pipes need to be insulated to prevent freezing.

•Ensure your vehicle is prepared for the cold (i.e. batteries, antifreeze, washer fluids, gas tank full, etc.).

•Ensure your furnace is in good, working order.

•Watch out for carbon monoxide poisoning (i.e. warming a car in a garage with door closed).

If you are among those citizens who experience problems with your heating source in this weather, you may find yourself on a list of homeowners waiting for service.

“We get a lot of emergency calls with frozen pipes or no heat when we see these kinds of temperatures,” said Brian Edwards, of Edwards Plumbing and Heating, Prairie du Chien. “For those people who have no alternative source of heat, we try to prioritize our services based on customer need.”

Edwards added that these temps will also “really test a lot of furnaces, especially those that haven’t been working very well or haven’t been tested in a while.”

“It’s always good to test your regular fuel source from time to time, regardless of what type it is,” he advised.

Edwards also cautioned citizens to be careful with running dryers, stoves, and vehicles in garages to stay warm.

“You have to be careful what you use and how you use it,” he stated. “People try to do some unusual things when it gets this cold. They just need to use common sense and be careful.”

Most service companies have a 24-hour on call service available to customers who need assistance.

For further advice and preparedness information, visit www.ready.wi.gov.

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