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WISCONSIN WEATHER ROUND-UP: Gov. Walker making millions available for fuel assistance

MADISON - Governor Scott Walker is making eight-and-a-half million more dollars available to help low-income Wisconsinites get the propane fuel they need to stay warm.  

Walker announced more aid for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, after he met today with industry leaders and his cabinet on the acute propane shortage.  He also granted eight-million-dollars in temporary lines of credit to propane distributors, so they can pay for their own supplies.  Walker said he asked state agencies to quote, "assist as appropriate" to help a quarter-million Wisconsin propane customers deal with skyrocketing fuel prices -- and shortages that are causing propane companies to scramble to find enough fuel.  The state's Economic Development Corporation will handle that end of the matter -- as well as WHEDA, the Wisconsin Housing-and-Economic Development Authority.  In the meantime, Walker is urging folks to conserve when possible -- and keep track of their propane supplies closely.  


Natural gas customers in northwest Wisconsin are getting the okay to dial-up their thermostats and start using their gas appliances again.  That's because Xcel Energy is getting fuel again from a supplier near Winnipeg where three natural gas pipelines went out of service due to an explosion on Saturday.  Xcel vice president Kent Larson said customers were quote, "amazing" as they kept their homes to 60-degrees for almost two days of extremely cold weather.  Larson said people's efforts helped Xcel maintain its system so that nobody experienced gas outages.  The utility serves much of Minnesota and part of North Dakota, as well as about the northwest quarter of Wisconsin.


U.S. Senate Democrat Tammy Baldwin of Madison has asked President Obama to get involved in the current shortage of propane fuel.  Baldwin, a Wisconsin Democrat, asked the president in a letter to order the industry to moderate exports so American consumers can have the fuel they need.  Experts blame the propane shortage on a cold winter, a recent pipeline shutdown, and higher-than-normal use by farmers last fall in drying their crops.  Baldwin told the president that some people are paying up six-dollars a gallon for fuel that cost four times as little during its peak a year ago.  Some suppliers say they only have enough fuel to sell to their own customers without taking on new ones -- and that's leaving some in the lurch.


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.  


As you might expect, road signs take quite a hit in Wisconsin during the winter.  The state DOT 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.  DOT 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.