Wisconsin's Bitter Cold Weather Causes Safety Concerns, Closures

Jan 30, 2019

Editor's note: This piece was originally published Jan. 29.

Updated on Jan. 30 6:35 p.m.

Milwaukee Public Schools are closed Thursday due to extremely cold weather. Temperatures are expected to stay below zero through Thursday.

Southeastern Wisconsin residents may also want to be on the alert for additional closings Thursday. For example, classes are canceled at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater until Friday morning. Classes at Marquette University are canceled until noon on Thursday, while classes at and UW-Milwaukee are cancelled through Thursday. Amtrak's Hiawatha service from Milwaukee to Chicago is canceled through Thursday.

READ: IMPACT 2-1-1 Connects Southeastern Wisconsinites To Cold Weather Services

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said Tuesday the city will only perform essential services on Wednesday.

The Milwaukee County Sherriff's office issued a warning Tuesday morning, urging caution on the expressways, noting black ice has caused problems on areas of northbound Interstate 43. 

Gov. Tony Evers declared a state of emergency Monday. The governor's office says the emergency declaration was made because Evers wants to make sure all state assets are available to help people during this week’s snow and bitter cold.

Andrew Beckett, of Wisconsin Emergency Management, says resources can now be deployed more quickly if a Wisconsin county asks for help. He says that assistance could even include deployment of the Wisconsin National Guard.

"In a situation like this, you might be looking at maybe needing to do welfare checks on individuals. Or, any state resources that might be available in order to help communities with snow removal, or helping residents remain safe,” Beckett said.

With temperatures in the Milwaukee area dropping so low, he says there are plenty of reasons to be concerned about public safety. Beckett says several communities are expected to offer warming centers, where people can get out of the cold. He adds that residents should also protect themselves.

"You know, dressing appropriately for the weather. Limiting time outdoors, and making sure they have an emergency kit in their home and their vehicle, if they do find themselves in a dangerous situation, they have something to help them stay safe until help can arrive,” he says.

Waiting for a bus along Water Street in downtown Milwaukee Monday afternoon, Jasmine Watts said she's taking as many precautions as possible.

“Being very careful, and make sure I'm not in a danger or coldness, and staying warm in my house,” she says.

But with the temperatures expected to be the coldest in southeastern Wisconsin in perhaps decades, Watts is allowing herself to think about moving.

"Yeah, probably to Hawaii,” she says.

Hawaii’s forecast this week is rain but with highs in the 70s.