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Tony Evers declares state of emergency due to extreme winter weather

From the Deep freeze: Read the latest reports on dangerous winter weather in southern Wisconsin series
  • 3 min to read
Winter storm hits Madison area

Snowplows clear the road on Williamson Street during a winter storm in Madison on Monday.

Gov. Tony Evers declared a state of emergency in Wisconsin on Monday, because of the heavy snows that have fallen and the extreme cold still to come.

"I’m concerned about the safety and well-being of our residents as this major storm and bitter cold moves in," Evers said in a release.

The state of emergency authorizes the adjutant general of the Wisconsin National Guard to call up military personnel to active duty if the need arises, and for all state agencies to be available if called on.

This request came from Wisconsin Emergency Management in case Guard units are needed to assist with emergencies in any affected parts of the state.

Dangerously cold temperatures are expected to drop actual temperatures to below zero starting Tuesday, with wind chill values down to 50 below zero, putting state residents and visitors at risk of frostbite and hypothermia.

Winter storm hits Madison area

A pedestrian walks across Park Street on the UW-Madison campus Monday Jan. 28, 2019. Clean up continued through the day to deal with the 5-7 inches of snow that fell overnight and through the day in Madison, Wisconsin. STEVE APPS, STATE JOURNAL

Snow that started late Sunday night and continued into Monday caused multiple crashes and slide-offs across the state, prompting the State Patrol and the National Weather Service to urge people not to travel, at least through Tuesday.

The snow emergency in Madison continues to 7 a.m. Tuesday, so people parking on the streets in the city, including those parking in the snow emergency zone, should park on the odd house-numbered side of the street Monday night.

Since Monday afternoon temperatures have stayed in the low teens, city crews won't be deploying salt on major routes, because it won't work in weather this cold.

Instead, trucks will put down sand where needed, and will keep plowing until all streets in the city have had at least one pass, with more plowing set the rest of the week to clean up areas that need it. 

The bitterly cold weather will make just about everyone want to stay indoors.

To that end, warming centers are opening in communities around the Madison area.

In Columbia County, warming shelters are in Portage at the municipal building and library; in Columbus at the senior center and library; in Fall River at the village hall;  in Cambria at the community room and library; and in Randolph at the village hall.

Shelters are set up for daytime use, and visitors are asked to bring their own food and water, medication, games, etc., but no pets.

Winter storm hits Madison area

Students walking down Bascom Hill between classes. Cleanup from an early morning snowstorm Monday Jan. 28, 2019 that dumped 5-7 inches of snow in Madison, Wisconsin. STEVE APPS, STATE JOURNAL

In Vernon County, warming shelters are in libraries in Viroqua, Readstown, La Farge (village hall too) and Ontario; in Gundersen St. Joseph Hospital in Hillsboro (open 24 hours) and in the DeSoto community center.

Because of the severe cold, Metro Transit in Madison is asking paratransit customers to cancel any upcoming rides that won't be needed, so rides can be scheduled properly.

Metro also advises riders to dress warmly if waiting for a bus, because there are occasions when buses are delayed for a short time.

Winter storm hits Madison area

A snowplow clearing the East Beltline near Park Street in Madison. Cleanup from an early morning snowstorm Monday Jan. 28, 2019 that dumped 5-7 inches of snow in Madison, Wisconsin. STEVE APPS, STATE JOURNAL

For communities that don't have warming shelters listed, good places to go are libraries, shopping malls, community centers and senior centers, but if deciding on a place to go, especially in a smaller community, call ahead to make sure a facility is open.

Now to the bad wind chill news.

Winter storm hits Madison area

Pedestrians walks down Park Street on the UW-Madison campus. Cleanup from an early morning snowstorm Monday Jan. 28, 2019 that dumped 5-7 inches of snow in Madison, Wisconsin. STEVE APPS, STATE JOURNAL

The National Weather Service has a winter storm warning still in effect until 6 p.m. Monday for any remnants of the strong storm that blew through late Sunday night, but the big danger coming up is from the cold and the wind.

A wind chill advisory starts at 4 a.m. Tuesday to 6 p.m. Tuesday, then a wind chill warning starts at 6 p.m. Tuesday until noon on Thursday.

The area covered by the advisory and warning takes in all or parts of Dane, Columbia, Green Lake, Marquette, Rock and Sauk counties.

Wind chills of 10 below to 15 below are possible Tuesday night, but with strong north winds blowing up to 25 mph, temperatures are expected to fall and wind chills getting worse as the day goes on.

The temperature could drop to around 8 below by 5 p.m. Tuesday, with wind chills between 20 below and 30 below. Winds could gust up to 35 mph.

Wednesday could be deadly to anyone not prepared to be outside.

"This will be one of the coldest stretches of temperatures and wind chills we have ever seen," the Weather Service said.

Wednesday's high is only expected to reach 13 below, and the overnight low into Thursday could drop to 27 below.

Winter storm hits Madison area

Marlisa Kopenski Condon, left, heads to work on foot along Williamson Street, with her son, Rex Condon, 10, and their 1-year-old mutt, Coconut, during a winter storm in Madison, Wis., Monday, Jan. 28, 2019. AMBER ARNOLD, STATE JOURNAL

Wind chills are expected to be in the 40 below to 55 below range at times, from Tuesday night through Thursday night.

By Friday, we should see a high above zero, in fact up to 19 degrees above zero, then balmy weather moves in, with highs of 37 on Saturday and (gasp) 40 on Sunday.

There are chances for rain and snow during the weekend.

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Bill Novak is a general assignment reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal.