Regional
8:45 am
Mon January 6, 2014

Cold Weather Closings in Milwaukee & Tips on How to Stay Safe

Looking out over a frigid Lake Michigan.
Looking out over a frigid Lake Michigan.
Credit Susan Bence

MPS is among those cancelling classes for Monday, because of the wind chill warning that took effect at 6 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 5.

Cold temperatures and brisk winds may result in wind chills plunging to 35 - 55 degrees below zero. The warning, issued by the National Weather Service, will expire at 12 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 7. Stay up-to-date by checking Innovative Weather's forecast.

During the wind chill warning, all non-essential City of Milwaukee services will be officially closed, including garbage and recycling service and City of Milwaukee Health Department health center locations.

Non-essential Milwaukee County offices are closed but the adult and juvenile courts are open. UWM has canceled classes, but the campus is open and parking lots are free. All 13 Milwaukee Public Library locations will be open from noon to 6 p.m. Overnight emergency shelters are full, but warming centers are open. TMJ4 pulled together a list of many more area closings.

To remain safe during extreme cold weather, the Milwaukee Health Department put together these cold-weather tips:

  • Minimize the time spent outdoors. If you do go outside, let someone know where you are going and when you expect to return.
  • Wear appropriate outdoor clothing and dress in layers. Ensure that exposed skin is covered, including your fingers, nose, and ears.
  • Make a car survival kit that includes blankets, extra clothing and high-energy foods, and ensure that your vehicle’s fuel tank is at least half-full and the battery is charged.
  • Be aware of the symptoms of frostbite and hypothermia. Frostbite can occur within minutes when unprotected skin is exposed to very cold temperatures, causing the affected area to appear white or grayish-yellow in color and feel firm or waxy. Hypothermia is life-threatening, and occurs when the body temperature drops too low, causing shivering, drowsiness, clumsiness and confusion. Both require immediate medical treatment.
  • Do not touch metal surfaces with uncovered hands. Flesh can freeze instantly to a surface.
  • Heat your home with devices approved for indoor use, and ensure they are properly vented to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning or fires. Never use wood-burning or coal-burning grills, camp stoves, or other outdoor devices indoors.
  • Keep pets safe by bringing them inside and ensuring trips outside are brief.
  • During cold weather, check on family members and neighbors who may be at risk for illness or injuries, especially young children, the elderly, and those with certain medical conditions.

Milwaukee County's Department of Health & Human Services put together this list on how to keep your home safe during the cold spell:

  • Make sure you have at least one working smoke detector on every floor of your home including the basement.
  • Make sure your home has at least one working carbon monoxide detector on every floor.
  • During periods of extreme cold keep the thermostat at 60 degrees or above to ensure pipes do not freeze. Make sure “unheated” spaces with water pipes are kept above freezing in a safe manner.
  • If you have not already done so, shut your storm windows or put on your storm windows. Make sure all windows are shut tightly and locked.
  • Never use torches or open flames to thaw pipes or heat spaces. The fire risk is too great.
  • If you use space heaters as an emergency heat source, keep a 3 foot radius around the heater clear of debris, furniture, curtains, and anything flammable.
  • Make sure your sump pump discharge has a downward slope so water does not collect and freeze.
  • If your pipes do freeze, shut off your water at the supply or contact the water utility to shut it off at the street. Once the pipes thaw, they will likely leak.
  • Have furnaces serviced annually so they are cleaned and ready to handle the cold. Change filters according to manufacturer’s recommendation. If you have a direct (side) vented furnace, keep the area on the side of house clear of snow. If the pipes clog with snow, you furnace will shut off.
  • If your furnace stops working, check the battery in the thermostat. Many calls we receive for “no heat” are fixed with a simple battery.

And, safety tips for motorists from Milwaukee County Sheriff's Office:

“Here’s what I need motorists to think about,” said Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke. “I need you to pre-plan. Think three “C’s” - 1) Cars, 2) Clothing, 3) Cell phone."

"Ask yourself if you’re prepared to withstand in these situations. Wear clothing designed for extreme cold weather conditions, especially if you have children traveling with you," Clarke says. "Now is not the time to look cute. You may not feel the damage due to skin exposure or hypothermia until it is too late. Make sure your cell phone is fully charged before leaving home so you can handle the numerous calls you may need to make if you become stranded."

  • Have jumper cables in your car. Cars do not always work well mechanically in these severe temperatures and may quit on you unexpectedly.
  • Have an emergency kit in your vehicle to help survive if your car becomes disabled. Include blankets, extra clothing (fleece hats, gloves, scarves), folding shovel, candles, waterproof matches, flashlight with batteries, hand warmer packets, water bottles and nutritious snack bars and nuts.
  • Prepare ahead of any travel by keeping your gas tank full and have the vehicle’s fluid levels checked.

AAA also put together a list of winter driving tips.