Wisconsin winters are great for outdoor activities, but the cold and snow can also pose serious dangers to the safety of everyone in the state. To help Wisconsin plan for the months ahead, Gov. Tony Evers has declared Nov. 13-17 Winter Weather Awareness Week in Wisconsin.
“When the wind blows and the snow starts falling, it’s important for all of Wisconsin to know what to do so they can stay safe,” said Wisconsin Emergency Management Administrator Greg Engle. “During Winter Weather Awareness Week, everyone is encouraged to take time to update their emergency kits and make sure their vehicle is ready for the ice and snow that often covers the roads.”
Staying informed is a critical part of being prepared for winter. Make sure to check in with the National Weather Service and other trusted local sources daily for forecasts. If heavy snow or ice is expected, prepare by stocking up on additional supplies, make sure you have an emergency kit at home and in your vehicle, and have a plan for what to do if you lose power at home.
According to the National Weather Service, Wisconsin experiences an average of three to six winter storms during the season. During the 2022-23 winter season, the highest one-day snowfall total in the state of 19.5 inches was reported on April 17, 2023 in Melrose in Jackson County. Bayfield in Bayfield County recorded 182.9 inches of snow last winter, giving it the highest seasonal snowfall total in the state. The coldest temperature recorded in Wisconsin last winter was -29 degrees Fahrenheit on Jan. 31, 2023 in Barron County near Ridgeland and again on Feb. 4, 2023 in Butternut in Ashland County.
The freezing temperatures of 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 2022-23*, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services. There were an average of 996 emergency department visits and 387 hospitalizations in the state due to cold-related illnesses during the winters of 2018-2019 through 2021-2022. Prepare for cold temperatures by wearing weather-appropriate clothing and limiting your time outdoors during periods of extreme cold.
Ice and snow on the roads remain a major threat to drivers throughout the state, causing thousands of motor vehicle crashes each year. Preliminary data from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation shows 41 people were killed and 3,573 were injured in the state during 2022 from crashes involving winter road conditions.
While driving in snow or ice, remain distraction-free and adjust your speed for current conditions. Use 511 Wisconsin to check travel conditions before you leave home. This information, along with live traffic cameras and traffic alerts, is accessible through the free 511 Wisconsin mobile app or the mobile-friendly site http://www.511wi.gov.
At home or in your car, winter emergency kits should include items such as food, water, a flashlight and batteries, and blankets. In your vehicle, include a snow shovel, extra gloves and hats, cell phone charger, and kitty litter or sand to help give your wheels traction on icy roads if your vehicle gets stuck.
Prepare your home by having your furnace serviced regularly. Check doorways and windows for signs they are allowing cold air into your home. Test carbon monoxide detectors to make sure they are working properly and have fresh batteries. Keep any free-standing heating devices away from curtains or other objects that could catch fire.
Gov. Evers’ Winter Weather Awareness Week proclamation is available here.
Find more information on winter safety in the ReadyWisconsin Winter Weather Awareness Week media packet, located here.
You can also follow ReadyWisconsin on Facebook, X, and Instagram for tips throughout the winter months and updates on dangerous weather conditions.