By proclamation of Governor Doyle this week is Winter Weather Awareness Week
While there has been plenty of variety the past several years in terms
of how severe the winter seasons have been, it is important to remember that on average
winter storms result in more total damage to vehicles and structures in Wisconsin than
any other form of severe weather! Also, winter storms and cold temperatures result in
more injuries and fatalities than other weather hazards such as tornadoes, flash floods,
thunderstorm winds or lightning.
On average there are about 17,000 vehicle accidents each winter in the Badger state,
resulting in about 7000 injuries and 75 fatalities. Many of these accidents occur during the
first and second snow events, even if snow totals are relatively light. Whenever there is
wintry precipitation (whether snow, sleet, freezing rain, or a mix) it is best to remember
simple safety tips, including staying alert, slowing down to maintain a reasonable
distance between vehicles, and turning on the headlights (even during daylight hours).
Here is a list of the winter season snow totals for Wausau (the current 30-year average is 58.6"):
So, how much snow might we receive during the upcoming winter season? I guess the
answer to this question depends on which which forecast a person chooses to believe.
I tend to prefer the longer-range forecasts made by the Climate Prediction Center (CPC),
which is the branch of the National Weather Service assigned the duties of summarizing
past weather events (which combine to make our "climate averages"), as well as look ahead.
The current CPC forecast for the period Dec-Jan-Feb indicates much of the northern U.S.
has equal chances of average, above, or below-average amounts of precipitation. The
CPC temperature forecast for the same period indicates Wisconsin as having a greater than
50% chance of above average temperatures, which is part of a broad area of roughly the
eastern two thirds of the country where above average temperatures may be expected.
Regarding cold weather, please remember that while we all should dress appropriately
for cold conditions, extra attention should be given to the elderly and infants, as people
in these two age groups are especially susceptible to health concerns related to extremes
(both cold and warm) in temperature. For humans in general, it has been shown that exposed
skin can sustain frostbite (for the elderly and infants these times are reduced):
-within 30 mintues when wind chills are -18 or lower
-within 10 minutes when wind chills are -32 or lower
-within 5 minutes when wind chills are -48 or lower
The parts of the body that usually experience frostbite are the finger tips and toes, as well as
the tip of the nose and the ear lobes.
It is also very important to remember that other animals can suffer from the effects of very cold
(and dry) conditions just as humans. So for any animals kept outside during the winter or prolonged
periods of cold, always provide a shelter from the wind, as well as a ready supply of fresh drinking
water. Outdoor animals can become dehydrated from the low humidity associated with cold air.
Finally, we have made available plenty of other information and resources regarding winter
weather conditions in Wisconsin and around the U.S. on our main Weather Page at wsaw.com.
Just look for the "Winter Weather Info." box down the left side. Provided links include Wisconsin
winter road conditions, National Weather Service and Wisconsin Emergency Management resources,
and the current Wind Chill calculator chart.
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