The blizzard conditions anticipated in the Milwaukee area never fully materialized Thursday. But freezing temperatures, low wind chills and strong winds could still make holiday travel treacherous.
A winter storm warning remains in effect through Saturday morning. Inverter Bypass Switch
We'll be updating with the latest on the storm and the situation around the Wisconsin.
The bad news with weather − we've got a wind chill advisory in effect until 10 a.m. Sunday.
The good news − temperatures might actually hit a high of 10 to 13 degrees on Christmas Day.
"The winds are still up there," said Marcia Cronce, meteorologist at National Weather Service Milwaukee/Sullivan. "We're gusting 40 miles per hour today at times. Tonight it will still be pretty brisk with these westerly winds, 25 to 30 mile an hour. They'll gradually decrease to 20 miles an hour tomorrow."
The forecast for early next week shows a warming trend.
"We'll be back in the 20's for temperatures on Monday and Tuesday and looking at a potential for 40's Wednesday, Thursday and Friday," Cronce said.
We Energies announced early Saturday it is "no longer urging customers to reduce their natural gas use."
The company said the amount of natural gas delivered into Wisconsin is back to levels that should meet its customer needs. The firm disclosed the Guardian pipeline, which provide natural gas to is distribution network "experienced a significant equipment failure - reducing the amount of fuel they committed to send by 30 percent."
We Energies also announced "no customer lost the ability to heat their home."
More:How to keep safe if you have to drive, travel in Wisconsin during a winter storm
We Energies is asking customers to keep their thermostats "lowered" overnight, but didn't provide a number to keep it at.
A spokesperson with the public utility company says the system has "stabilized" after customers turned downed their thermostats, following a request from the company to lower thermostats to 60 to 62 degrees.
"We made this unprecedented request after one of the interstate pipeline suppliers who provides natural gas to We Energies experienced a significant equipment failure — reducing the amount of fuel they normally send by 30%," Brenden Conway, director of media relations with WEC Energy Group, said.
The company plans to send an update on Saturday morning to customers.
Gov. Tony Evers has been briefed by the Public Service Commission and Wisconsin Emergency Management regarding a potential gas outage after We Energies asked customers to lower their thermostats to help avoid a "significant natural gas outage." (See more information in the 6:30 p.m. update.)
Evers spokesperson Britt Cudaback issued a tweet announcing the governor has been briefed.
"Our office will remain in close contact with local, state, and federal partners as we continue to closely monitor this situation," Cudaback said.
Far north-central Wisconsin, near the Michigan border, could possibly see another foot of snow through Saturday night. The National Weather Service forecasts 3 to 12 inches of snow for the region.
"The majority of the accumulating snow has ended for central and northeast WI. Blowing/drifting snow and bitter cold wind chills remain a hazard area wide," the weather service wrote in a tweet.
Milwaukee will also see some light snow overnight into Saturday. The weather service forecasts it will be less than an inch.
We Energies is asking customers to immediately lower their thermostats to 60 to 62 degrees to help avoid a "significant natural gas outage," the public utility company said in a statement.
One of the interstate pipeline suppliers who provides natural gas to We Energies experienced a significant equipment failure, which is limiting the amount of fuel coming to We Energies.
The company said it is unable to receive additional natural gas from its other pipeline suppliers.
Customers should also close blinds or drapes at night and avoid opening doors to retain heat. Open the blinds during the day to let heat from the sun in.
We Energies is also asking customers not to use natural gas fireplaces and to use natural gas ranges sparingly.
"We expect this shortage will last throughout the rest of the day — we will reassess tomorrow," the company said.
We Energies has customers in the Milwaukee and Fox Valley areas, as well as a few in northern Wisconsin near the border with Michigan.
The National Weather Service's forecast for Saturday shows a high near 7 degrees and wind chills between minus 15 and minus 25.
Wind gusts are expected to be consistently 25 miles per hour, with some gusting as high as 45 miles per hour.
The Winter Storm Warning has been downgraded to a less-severe Winter Weather Advisory for the rest of Friday to 9 a.m. Saturday morning.
It doesn't change much about the expected forecast. Powerful winds will still be blowing snow and creating slippery roads the rest of the day, especially in rural areas, and wind chills will remain dangerous through the weekend. Gusts could still reach 50 miles per hour.
The National Weather Service anticipated a low temperature of minus 2 on Friday night, with wind chills between minus 20 and minus 35 degrees, plus an 80% chance of new precipitation (though no more than an inch of new snow accumulation).
The Winnebago County Sheriff's Office asked motorists Friday afternoon to avoid driving on the Butte des Morts causeway on Interstate 41 in Oshkosh.
Blowing snow and high winds are causing hazardous conditions. The sheriff's office suggests using State 76 or U.S. 45 through Oshkosh as a detour.
Southbound I-41 is described as "treacherous" and worse than northbound, but the sheriff's office advises staying off the highway in both directions.
Though there were concerns about the potential for widespread power outages, they've been scattered and localized around Wisconsin.
We Energies was reporting about 2,000 customers without power, most in the Fox Valley and southeastern Wisconsin.
Wisconsin Public Service was reporting just over 200 without power in northern and central Wisconsin.
Alliant Energy listed just 20 customers without power in Wisconsin.
The National Weather Service for Milwaukee/Sullivan released its updated snowfall totals for southern Wisconsin, indicating that Milwaukee has gotten 2.3 inches of snow from late Wednesday through 10 a.m. Friday.
Kenosha (1.1 inches) is at the low end of the spectrum, with 2.6 inches in West Bend, 2.9 in Janesville, 4 inches in Madison and 3.5 in Fond du Lac.
"Keep in mind these are estimated using a mix of point observations and smoothing to fill in the map for display purposes," the NWS tweeted. "Exact amounts at your location may vary, especially with blowing and drifting."
See the latest on snow totals here.
Wind speeds and frigid wind chills mean a Winter Storm Warning remains in place for all of southern Wisconsin through Saturday morning.
The wind chill Friday was expected between minus 25 and minus 35 in some areas thanks to 45 mile-per-hour winds, wind speeds that will taper off only gradually through the weekend before finally getting back to single digits on Monday.
Read more about how the forecast has changed.
Light snow will continue for the rest of the night for large portions of Wisconsin, while some places have already seen a few inches of snow.
"For central Wisconsin, most of it has tapered off," said meteorologist Tasos Kallas with the National Weather Service in Green Bay.
"It's still snowing over eastern and northern Wisconsin still. It probably will be light snow for the rest of the night, although accumulations, away from Door County, will be under an inch here."
Kallas said most of the heavier snow has ended for most of the state but now more cold will continue. Most communities are reporting wind chills from minus 15 to minus 30 and wind gusts as high as 25 to 35 mph. Sheboygan reported a wind gust of 36 mph.
Most communities received 4 to 7 inches of snow. Some areas in far northern Wisconsin could receive a foot of snow. Here are some recent snow totals from the weather service:
"With the new snow on the ground and these strong winds there's going to be a lot of blowing snow, that's going to be the biggest problem for travelers," Kallas said.
Airports across Wisconsin reported more delays and cancellations on Thursday.
An airport spokesperson with Milwaukee's Mitchell International Airport says it is likely due to the weather and that operations were “standard.”
Stephanie Staudinger, marketing and public relations coordinator for the airport, said airlines do not typically, immediately provide reasoning for the delay or cancellation but we can “assume” it is weather related. Also, it may be the weather at an airport where a flight is arriving from that may be the cause of the delay or cancellation. A large portion of the country is experiencing extreme weather right now.
According to FlightAware, 67 flights coming to or from Milwaukee have been delayed and 33 have been canceled. That amounts to roughly 23% to 27% of flights delayed and 9% to 15% of flights canceled.
At Green Bay Austin Straubel International Airport, 12 flights coming to or from Green Bay have been delayed and five have been canceled. While at Appleton International Airport, 10 flights coming to or from Appleton have been delayed and 16 have been canceled.
Central Wisconsin Airport in Mosinee had four flight delays and two cancellations.
Milwaukee County's Marcia P. Coggs Human Services Center (1220 W. Vliet St. in Milwaukee) has been opened as an additional drop-in warming shelter from the winter storm and dangerously low temperatures.
The additional 60- to 80-person capacity will supplement space at drop-in warming shelters at St. Benedict the Moor Parish (930 W. State St.) and Repairers of the Breach (1335 W. Vliet St.).
The Coggs Center will be open until noon Tuesday.
As light snow continues to accumulate overnight, "dangerously low" temperatures have arrived in Milwaukee and wind chills could reach as low as minus 34 overnight, meteorologist Taylor Patterson with the National Weather Service office in Sullivan says.
Milwaukee currently records a temperature of 8, while Madison is at minus 3.
Friday morning temperatures could be as low as minus 5 in Milwaukee, which could cause frostbite within 10 to 15 minutes and the chance of hypothermia increases.
"Once you start seeing wind chills in the negative 30s, which is what Wisconsin will experience Friday morning, there is a greater risk for hypothermia and frostbite," Patterson said.
Temperatures are expected to stay in the single digits and below freezing throughout the entire Christmas weekend.
"Once we start to get into early next, so Monday morning, temperatures will climb back into the 20s," Patterson said.
Accumulating snowfall will continue overnight but Patterson forecasts only another inch of snow for Milwaukee. However, strong winds could result in blowing snow, reducing visibility.
According to the weather service, the parts of the state may have a lot more shoveling yet to do. Most of far northern Wisconsin and Door County could see up to an additional 6 inches of snow, while specifically northern Vilas County may see a foot of heavy lake effect snow.
The City of Milwaukee is not expecting any impacts to parking or a snow emergency to be called Thursday based on the latest forecasts of only a few inches of snow at most, according to the Department of Public Works.
The department asked that residents follow posted signs, including winter parking regulations, and park as close to curbs as possible to allow large salt trucks to pass through the streets.
Those who park on the streets are encouraged to sign up for text message notifications at Milwaukee.gov/Parking.
The department did not pick up some garbage and recycling Thursday because staff were reassigned to trucks salting the streets. Residents whose garbage and recycling were not picked up should leave their carts at their collection points until they are emptied next week. They should also clear snow and ice on and around the carts and ensure they're accessible.
No collections or non-emergency services are scheduled Friday through Monday in observance of the holiday.
Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers on Thursday signed an executive order declaring an energy emergency across the state as the winter storm hampers delivery of liquid fuel for heating homes and threatens to cause power outages due to factors such as downed trees.
The executive order waives certain federal and state requirements on those transporting liquid fuel products and supplies or providing other energy emergency response.
The order "will allow for the swift and efficient delivery of fuel products, as well as streamlined restoration efforts in the event of significant power outages throughout the state," his office said in a statement.
The Public Service Commission’s Office of Energy Innovation has indicated multiple liquid fuel terminals have limited supplies available to be distributed and utilities have indicated the potential need for response from out of state, the statement said.
Drop-in warming shelters are available for people without stable housing at St. Benedict the Moor Parish (930 W. State St.) and Repairers of the Breach (1335 W. Vliet St.).
Anyone who sees somebody living outside in these dangerous temperatures should send the location and general description of the person to the Milwaukee County Homeless Outreach Team at email@example.com. The team will be doing street outreach from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday and Friday to find people living outside and get them to warming sites.
Milwaukee Mitchell Airport has seen “minimal delays and cancellations so far,” said Stephanie Staudinger, marketing and public relations coordinator for the airport.
Snow-clearing crews are standing by as they wait for snow to begin accumulating, Staudinger said.
According to FlightAware, 31 flights coming to or from Milwaukee have been delayed and 19 have been canceled.
In comparison, Chicago O’Hare Airport has seen over 350 delayed flights and 530 cancellations.
About a quarter of Southwest’s flights in Milwaukee are delayed. Delays account for 16% of American Airlines and 12% of Delta’s flights in Milwaukee.
Staudinger urged people to keep in contact with their airlines for updates.
The airport remains open and operational, she said, despite an incorrect report that it had closed.
Winds are picking up and temperatures are dropping as a cold front approaches southeast Wisconsin.
National Weather Service reported that temperatures at its Sullivan office dropped from 25 degrees at 8 a.m. to 5 degrees at 1 p.m.
“There is a band of moderate snow behind the cold front that is reducing visibility to around 1 mile. Winds are increasing out of the northwest, so expect this fresh snow to start blowing and drifting around,” the weather service said.
Here are some recent snowfall total estimates from the weather service:
Highways across the state continued to be either snow-covered or had slippery stretches, according to the state’s 511 map. A handful of disabled vehicles and crashes could be seen.
University of Wisconsin officials announced the men's basketball game set for Friday night at the Kohl Center has been canceled because of travel issues for Grambling State.
According to UW officials, fans should retain their ticket and parking permits, which will be valid if a different opponent can be secured for a future date.
UW (9-2) is set to return to action Dec. 30 against visiting Western Michigan.
Marquette University is closing at noon Thursday due to the winter storm. Some on-campus services will remain open in a limited capacity, such as the police department and facilities staff.
Classes already ended earlier this month and students are on winter break. The closure affects employees who are typically expected to work on campus. The university directed employees who can work remotely to do so, while others may need to use a vacation day.
The Outagamie Sheriff's office is urging people to avoid traveling, and issued a tow ban that is expected to last until Saturday morning and perhaps beyond, depending on road conditions.
Unless a vehicle is an "immediate hazard," no cars will be towed from Interstate 41 and or State Highway 441 in Outagamie County.
Most highways and interstates across Wisconsin were either snow-covered or had slippery stretches as of 10 a.m., according to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation's 511 map.
Some stretches of highway were ice-covered, including I-41 near Slinger and I-43 near Port Washington, I-43 in Green Bay, and some highways near Fort Atkinson and East Troy.
Highway cameras around the state showed deteriorating conditions with low visibility and a handful of disabled cars and crashes .
As snow begins to fall in the Milwaukee area, residents in northern and western Wisconsin have reported overnight snowfall totals to the National Weather Service. Here is a sampling.
The weather service in Sullivan also released a new graphic showing projected snowfall totals for southern Wisconsin through Saturday. Milwaukee is expected to see 3 to 5 inches, Sheboygan and Fond du Lac will see 3 to 6, and Madison will see 1 to 3.
"Snow will move through this morning and taper off from west to east through this evening. As the snow is ending, strong winds will develop. Blowing and drifting snow will cause hazardous travel conditions tonight into Friday," the weather service said in a statement.
The Milwaukee County Courthouse, Vel Phillips Detention Center, and Marcia P. Coggs Building (except the behavioral health mobile crisis teams) will be closed starting at noon Thursday, County Executive David Crowley said in a statement.
The facilities will remain closed through Friday.
Amtrak canceled several of its Midwest trains through Sunday, including many trains on its Milwaukee-to-Chicago line.
The Amtrak Hiawatha route is canceled Thursday through Sunday for the following trains:
The remainder of the Hiawatha trains will remain in operation. Check the status of your train at amtrak.com.
People who have tickets to canceled trains “will typically be accommodated on trains with similar departure times or another day,” Amtrak said.
“Amtrak will waive additional charges for customers looking to change their reservation during the modified schedule by calling our reservation center at 1-800-USA-RAIL.”
See the full list of Midwest trains that are canceled here.
As a precursor to more severe weather, light snow will continue to fall this morning over southern Wisconsin, the National Weather Service said.
By the afternoon, the highest snowfall totals will be north and west of Madison, the weather service said.
About 2-6 inches of snow is expected to fall through Friday morning for much of southern Wisconsin, the weather service said, with the highest snowfall totals near Fond du Lac and Sheboygan. Most of the snow in the storm will occur in this time period.
The more severe weather threat will be potential blizzard conditions beginning late this afternoon or this evening, caused by strong winds and blowing snow.
Wind gusts of 40 to 50 mph tonight and Friday could bring down tree branches.
It will be combined with a “very sharp drop in temperatures,” the weather service said.
Dangerously cold wind chills will begin tonight. At noon, the wind chill in Milwaukee is expected to be 12 degrees. By 3 p.m., it’ll be minus 4. By 7 p.m., it’ll be minus 15.
Wind chills will most likely dip the lowest from late tonight through midday Friday, in the range of minus 25 to minus 35.
Still, wind chills of minus 10 to minus 20 are expected through Saturday night.
Snow has began to cover roadways on the western edge of the state, causing crashes.
"Several accidents and slide-offs have been reported," the National Weather Service office in La Crosse said in a tweet.
The weather service reports that road conditions have deteriorated in La Crosse and that snow will continue to accumulate through the overnight hours. The snow could reduce visibility by up to a mile.
"Delay or cancel travel plans as necessary tonight," the weather service said.
A number of communities in Milwaukee County have announced that schools will be closed Thursday, resulting in the beginning of an early winter break for students.
All of Milwaukee's western suburb public schools will be closed, including Wauwatosa, West Allis-West Milwaukee, Greenfield, Whitnall and Franklin.
The public school districts in Cudahy and Oak Creek, in the southern portion of the County, also announced they will be closed Thursday.
Students at Milwaukee Public Schools will not be reporting to school either, as it was a scheduled off day for them.
The National Weather Service in Green Bay has issued a winter storm warning for much of northeast, central and northern Wisconsin through 6 a.m. Saturday.
Six to eight inches of snow are expected throughout the region, with more possible in the upper northeast corner of the state and less in eastern Wisconsin along the Lake Michigan shore.
The NWS continues to expect the bulk of the snow to hit central Wisconsin on Wednesday night and the northern and northeastern areas overnight into Thursday morning.
While the snow will taper Thursday, the wind will increase, with gusts between 35 mph and 50 mph.
Wind chills could reach minus 20 in central Wisconsin Thursday night, with wind chills Friday throughout the northeast quarter of the state expected to range from minus 10 to minus 30 and will remain there through Sunday morning.
Representatives from the Milwaukee County Transit System said the suspension of bus services is a highly unlikely scenario — though not impossible. However, inclement weather could mean service delays, so riders should dress warmly in case waits are long.
“Sometimes when it’s snowing there are fewer cars on the road and this can actually make driving bus routes safer in those conditions … but we do tell our drivers to drive slower, and this can result in a delayed schedule,” said Anna Schryver, communications manager for MCTS.
Schryver said that riders can track weather alerts and delays in service at ridemcts.com.
Milwaukee Department of Public Works officials are asking residents to be patient as staff shortages mean a reduced fleet of snow plow drivers will be on city streets.
About 270 people will be working 12-hour shifts, said Jerrel Kruschke, commissioner of public works.
“We’re going to get to every street,” Kruschke said. “There could be a delay in other services.”
Last month, department leaders warned that residents should expect delays in clearing snow and ice, picking up garbage and recycling and other services this winter as the department struggles with a serious staffing shortage.
Because of the holiday weekend, garbage pickup will not occur Friday through Monday. If garbage pickup cannot be completed Thursday, crews will likely come on Tuesday. Kruschke asked residents to clear snow around their garbage bins.
The department is also trying to reach residential streets more quickly as opposed to focusing so intensely on main streets. That might involve taking a pass through a neighborhood instead of solely focusing on keeping the biggest roads pristine, he said.
“We’re going to do a lot of experimental things just to give people access to those arterials,” Kruschke said.
— Sophie Carson and Alison Dirr
Several Milwaukee County buildings will be closed on Friday — and potentially Thursday — due to the winter storm.
The Milwaukee County Courthouse, Vel Phillips Detention Center, and Marcia P. Coggs Building (except the behavioral health mobile crisis teams) will be closed, according to a statement from County Executive David Crowley's office.
Employees and departments deemed essential to during the storm will work as normal while employees who can work remotely will do so.
A decision about whether to limit county operations on Thursday will be made at 5 a.m.
Racine's Commissioner of Public Works John C. Rooney has declared a snow emergency in the city of Racine from 6 p.m. Thursday to 6 a.m. Saturday.
"The National Weather Service is predicting a significant snowfall during this period of time," Rooney said in a statement.
There will be no parking allowed on any of Racine's arterial or collector streets. For all other streets, alternate side parking will be in effect from 2 a.m. to 6 a.m. Vehicles parked in violation will be ticketed and subject to towing, Rooney said.
To see which streets are in effect visit cityofracine.org/SnowEmergency.
The National Weather Service in Sullivan has officially issued a winter storm warning for southeastern Wisconsin, including Milwaukee County, beginning 9 a.m. Thursday and extending to 6 a.m. Saturday.
The winter storm warning extends from the Illinois border to Sheboygan, west to the border with Iowa and Minnesota and north to Superior.
Most of northeast and central Wisconsin, including Green Bay, Appleton and Wausau, were not under the warning. There, a winter storm advisory is in effect.
What exactly constitutes a 'blizzard'? What about a 'winter storm watch'? Here are some weather terms to know
Forecasts call for 3 to 6 inches of snowfall during the storm, coupled with dangerous winds and freezing temperatures, falling to around 7 degrees for most of Thursday with wind chill values between minus 5 and minus 15, then between minus 20 and minus 30 overnight. Winds could gust as high as 30 mph during the day then as high as 50 mph starting overnight and into Friday.
Friday's high temperature will be merely 3 degrees, with regular winds around 30 mph, creating blowing-snow hazards. Friday night's low will reach minus 2 degrees, with winds maintaining their ferocity and tapering off only slightly into Saturday, down to 25 mph and 40 mph gusts.
Tim Carnahan, superintendent for Wisconsin State Patrol urged the public to "seriously reconsider" their travel plans on a state Department of Transportation media call Wednesday afternoon.
"Don't underestimate this storm," Carnahan said. "The conditions are such and the temperatures are such that things like salt are going to be, in many cases, ineffective — it is just too cold. The wind would blow the salt off the road anyway. My best advice is seriously reconsider whether or not you're going to travel."
How to keep safe if you have to drive, travel in Wisconsin during a winter storm
Randy Hoyt, the DOT's Traffic Management Center supervisor, recommends that people pay close attention to the 511 app or website for updates on road conditions. He also advises travelers to pay attention to electronic road signs.
Hoyt said he anticipates the western and northern parts of the state to be the most impacted by Thursday's storm, with wind gusts affecting high-profile vehicles like semis and box trucks. He urged drivers to keep a safe distance from these larger vehicles.
Hoyt and Carnahan both emphasized that drivers should be extra prepared while traveling, just in case they get stuck or stranded. That includes dressing extra warmly in the car, even if you don't think layering up is necessary for an hour-long car ride. Drivers should also travel with an emergency kit containing blankets, extra gloves and hats, coats, water, snacks and a phone charger.
Drivers should expect to find themselves in whiteout conditions, Carnahan said, and underscored the importance of pulling over or getting off at the next exit if you're not comfortable on the roads. No holiday party is worth risking the safety of you or your loved ones, he said.
Airports may not seem bad now, but Marty Piette, airport director of Green Bay Austin Straubel International Airport, said he anticipates Friday to be the worst day for air travel.
He strongly recommends flyers with scheduled flights out of the Green Bay airport to request travel waivers now, if they have the flexibility in their plans to do so. Waivers can be used to schedule flights at a later date without changing fees or additional charges.
"What really impacts the aircraft upon landing and arrival is the visibility," Piette said. "That's really our biggest concern with Friday, because it will be that drier snow, there's going to be snow on the ground. And when the winds pick up, the visibility is reduced. So that's why we're really watching Friday a little more closely."
Piette said that customers should also be mindful about their inbound flights. If you're expecting to make a connecting flight to the East Coast, consider that this is also the direction the storm plans to travel, too. And the storm's wants and whims will always win out.
"It's hard to predict. It just depends on what the weather systems are at any given time," Piette said.
Some University of Wisconsin System campuses canceled final exams scheduled for the end of this week to allow students time to get home for the holidays before the winter storm hits. In most cases, instructors will contact students about alternative arrangements, such as an online test format.
UW-La Crosse, UW-Superior, UW-Green Bay, UW-River Falls and UW-Eau Claire canceled many in-person exams scheduled for Wednesday evening, Thursday or Friday. Some schools are encouraging employees to consider working remotely Thursday and Friday.
"For students, we really want them to be able to focus all their energies on their exams and not be worried about what this storm means for their ability to get home," said Kathleen Burns, UW-Green Bay provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs. "We wanted to be proactive, and give people some time to plan and also some peace of mind."
It's the first time UW-Green Bay has moved online for the final exam week due to weather, Burns said, and it potentially sets a precedent for future weather events. UW-Milwaukee announced Wednesday that in-person exams scheduled for 3 p.m. or later on Thursday are canceled. Exams earlier in the day will take place. Residence halls, as usual, will remain open during winter break.
"The university understands that this causes disruption for students and instructors, but the safety of our campus community — including students who will travel far distances to get home — comes first," a UWM statement to students and staff.
UW-Madison is forging ahead with the last day of finals scheduled on Thursday. In a Tuesday statement, officials wrote that "based on currently available information, the university will be open for normal operations," including final exams ending Thursday and open for business on Friday.
— Kelly Meyerhofer and Natalie Eilbert
Milwaukee’s Mitchell International Airport has all snow removal crews working 12-hour shifts to ensure that flights flying in and out of the airport are minimally interrupted.
“As an airport in Milwaukee, Wisconsin you are always working to prepare for the snow, so all year we’ve had our teams practice dry runs to be ready for winter weather,” said Stephanie Staudinger, public relations coordinator for the airport.
The decision to delay or cancel a flight is ultimately up to the individual airlines. The only situation in which the airport would cancel flights would be if snow forced it to close.
If you have plans to fly out of Mitchell in the coming days, Staudinger recommends consistently contacting your airline to be best prepared for changes.
A TSA spokesperson also recommends that passengers arrive at the airport no later than two hours before the flight’s departure.
Milwaukee-area officials on Wednesday urged residents to prepare for power outages and to avoid traveling in the coming winter storm and deep freeze.
A trifecta of snow, strong winds and low temperatures will "wreak havoc on our infrastructure," said Joshua Parish, assistant chief of the Milwaukee Fire Department.
Winds gusts of 45 to 55 mph could knock down trees, which could fall into power lines.
We Energies has all available crews working through the week, and it has put out a call for help from other utility companies around the country. Spokesman Brendan Conway asked people to be patient if they lose their power, as crews will be working in difficult conditions.
"We're prepared for it, we have a plan in place and we're going to respond as quickly and safely as we can," Conway said. "Our crews out in the field, it's going to be incredibly cold for them and they're going to take extra precautions, so it could take a little bit longer."
Matt Cullen, a spokesperson for Wisconsin Public Service, recommended people download the WPS or We Energies app to easily report outages.
"That is a key step in our process because it helps us better pinpoint the specific area where an outage has occurred," Cullen said.
Cullen also emphasized the importance of checking the natural gas meters and appliance vents for any buildup of snow or ice. This type of interference can trap carbon monoxide indoors and create a hazardous situation.
Milwaukee officials asked residents to check on older neighbors and others who are most vulnerable to extreme cold. They include infants and young children, those using alcohol or drugs and those with mental health issues or those without adequate shelter.
Officials provided additional guidance on how to remain safe.
With wind chills as low as minus 35, frostbite can occur within minutes, said Nick Tomaro, emergency preparedness director of the Milwaukee Health Department. The signs of frostbite include numbness, stinging and aching. The signs of hypothermia are shivering, drowsiness, clumsiness and confusion.
Signs of carbon monoxide poisoning include headaches, nausea, disorientation and can result in seizures, comas respiratory failure and death.
Multiple street outreach teams are checking on people who are living outside, said Rafael Acevedo, a city official who oversees outreach to the homeless population. He said the city and its partners have been working to make sure there is enough shelter space for everyone.
"We feel pretty confident that we can get people indoors who want to come indoors," he said.
Emergency Battery Backup Power The locations of several warming sites for the homeless are being kept private, Acevedo said, but two locations are accepting walk-in intake appointments: