WISCONSIN WEATHER ROUNDUP: Siren had the state's coldest temperature at 19-below
It started warming up a little in Wisconsin by seven this morning -- but wind-chill factors were still at 40-below in Menomonie and New Richmond. The state's coldest wind-chill was reported near Frederic in Polk County, at minus-46. Siren had the state's coldest actual temperature at seven o'clock with 19-below. No place in the state was above zero at that hour. Kenosha was at zero. Wind-chill warnings and advisories continue at least through mid-morning tomorrow. Wind chills could bottom out at minus-55 tomorrow morning -- which is predicted to be the coldest morning of the week. Even southern Wisconsin is expecting wind-chills of around 50-below. Actual temperatures could hit minus-30 overnight. Blowing snow remains in the forecast, but no new accumulations are planned except along Lake Superior -- where another 1-to-3 inches are possible today.
X-cel Energy now expects one of three natural gas pipelines shut down by a weekend explosion to be back at full capacity by this afternoon. But the utility is still asking its customers in northwest Wisconsin, Minnesota, and North Dakota to conserve as much as they can. X-cel receives much of its natural gas from the three knocked-out pipelines -- one of which blew up in Manitoba Canada during the weekend. Utility spokeswoman Mary Sandok said it's clear that customers responded when its appeal first went out on Saturday. That's despite another bout of cold-and-windy weather that reached Wisconsin last night. X-cel's natural gas customers are still being to turn down their thermostats, and avoid using gas-powered appliances if they can.
As you might expect, road signs take quite a hit in Wisconsin during the winter. The state D-O-T says vehicles take out around four-thousand signs - and that number increases as the roads get slicker. Drivers often have to pay to replace whatever signs they break. D-O-T sign engineer Matt Rauch says the costs range from 25-dollars for a simple speed limit sign, to almost 10-thousand dollars to fix the large green specialized Interstate signs.
Governor Scott Walker will meet this morning with people involved in the propane fuel shortage, before determining his next move. On Saturday, Walker declared a state-of-emergency, and authorized National Guard troops to help residents who need it. About a quarter-million Wisconsin homes heat with propane. The cold winter is partially to blame for the shortage -- as well as the recent shutdown of a key pipeline, and the heavy use of propane by farmers to dry their grain last fall. That's jacked up fuel prices from last winter's high of 1.50-a-gallon to five-dollars or more. Some suppliers say they've stopped taking new customers, because they're having trouble serving the ones they have. One Marinette man said his winter supply got down to 10-percent -- and three propane suppliers refused to serve him until a relative was able to help out. Meanwhile, natural gas customers in northwest Wisconsin are being asked to conserve fuel today. X-cel Energy made the request after a Trans-Canada pipeline exploded on Saturday in Manitoba. The blast also damaged two other lines which are out of service. The three lines are X-cel's main natural gas supply. The utility is asking customers set their heat at 60-degrees, and avoid using gas appliances today if possible.
If you're worried about being on a train that derails in the bitter cold, don't be. State Railroad Commissioner Jeff Plale said 99-point-97 percent of all freight trains complete their shipments without incident. He said the last time a passenger train derailed in Wisconsin was in 2010, and the weather had nothing to do with it. Despite that, Amtrak canceled half its normal runs today on its Milwaukee-to-Chicago Hiawatha line. Amtrak said it wanted to maintain service while reducing exposure to quote, "extreme weather conditions" that are in the forecast. Nineteen cars of a Union Pacific coal train derailed earlier this month in Racine County, due to a track that broke up because of the cold. In Janesville, part of a Wisconsin-and-Southern grain train jumped the tracks last week. Officials said the cold might have caused a malfunction on a switch. The two recent incidents are few-and-far between. Wisconsin reported seven train derailments for all of last year -- and an average of 15 over the past five years.
Dozens of school districts throughout Wisconsin are closed today and tomorrow. Classes had already been called off in some places, so teachers could attend professional development sessions. But many superintendents cited the nasty weather in canceling school until Wednesday. Mequon-Thiensville was among a number of districts which planned to open today, and see what happens. Much of Wisconsin had light snow and light winds yesterday morning, but another Alberta Clipper system moved in and blew the snow around. Parts of southwest Wisconsin had blizzard conditions last night. Grant County took its snow-plows off the roads. Fire-fighters in Fennimore rescued people from stranded cars. Prairie du Chien officials urged folks not to travel due to its blizzard conditions, as winds in that area hit 57-miles-an-hour last night. At four this morning, gusts were in the 20-to-30-mile-an-hour range throughout the state. Temperatures in northern Wisconsin were down to 16-below -- not the coldest this season -- but Siren had a wind-chill of 40-below at four a-m. Parts of the state could get their coldest actual temps of the season tonight -- as cold as 30-below by tomorrow morning. Wind chill advisories and warnings remain in effect at least through mid-morning tomorrow. It might not get above zero anywhere in Wisconsin until Wednesday, when a warming trend could get highs back to around 20.
An ice fisherman was killed in southwest Wisconsin after he fell and hit his head on an icy street. Iowa County authorities said 52-year-old Doug Halverson was planning to go ice fishing in the village of Mifflin on Saturday afternoon. Officials said he was walking on a snow-covered road when he fell on his head. Halverson stopped breathing. A by-stander performed C-P-R before rescuers arrived and took him to a hospital -- where he died.