MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) -- The polar vortex froze Wisconsin last winter, and state officials want to help everyone prepare for the months ahead.
Governor Tony Evers declared Nov. 4 through 8 as Winter Awareness Week in Wisconsin.
“The extreme cold felt across Wisconsin earlier this year is a reminder of just how dangerous winter can be,” said Maj. Gen. Don Dunbar, Wisconsin’s adjutant general and homeland security advisor. “Take time during Winter Awareness Week to make sure your emergency kits are fully supplied, have your furnace serviced and get your vehicle checked out to make sure it’s ready for winter road conditions.”
Winter emergency kits should include items such as food, water, a flashlight, batteries, and blankets. In your vehicle, include a snow shovel, extra gloves and hats, and kitty litter or sand to help give your wheels traction on icy roads in case you get stuck.
The NBC15 Weather Authority App is available on all mobile devices in the Google Play store for Android users or the App store for Apple iOS users.
NBC15 Weather Authority Weather Impact Scale
"Severe weather in particular can impact your daily life,” said Chief Meteorologist Charlie Shortino. “We developed the Weather Impact Scale to let you know how much the day's weather will affect you and your family.”
The impact scale has five levels.
- Green: No impactful weather is expected.
- Yellow 1- Low: Less than two inches of snow, ice of .01 to .05 of an inch, freezing fog with one mile visibility, wind gusts of 25-35 mph, or a wind chill of -10 to 0 degrees.
- Orange 2 - Medium: Snow of two to five inches, ice of .05 to .10 of an inch, freezing fog with visibility less than a quarter-mile, wind gusts of 35-50 mph, or a wind chill of -30 to -10 degrees.
- Red 3- High:Snow greater than five inches, ice of .10 - .25 of an inch, freezing fog with near-zero visibility, wind gusts greater than 50 mph, or a wind chill less than -30 degrees.
- Pink 4- Extreme:Extreme life threatening winter weather is expected.
According to the National Weather Service (NWS), Wisconsin experiences an average of 3-6 winter storms during a season. NBC15 meteorologists are anticipating warmer than average temperatures, but it will be wetter. There is a 40-50 percent chance of higher than normal precipitation through the December-February time frame, and it does not necessarily mean more snowfall.
The average annual snowfall ranges from 32 to 40 inches near the Illinois border to 135 to 168 inches in the Iron County snow-belt from Gurney to Hurley, according to NWS.
NWS winter storm warnings, watches, and advisories
- Winter Weather Advisory: There is a high confidence that a hazardous winter event will occur over a 12-hour period, such as three to five inches of snow, but should not become life threatening if caution is used.
- Winter Storm Watch: Winter storm conditions including freezing rain, sleet, and heavy snow are possible within the next 36-48 hours. Continue monitoring the weather forecast.
- Winter Storm or Ice Storm Warning: A significant winter storm is occurring or will begin in the next 24-36 hours. Heavy snow (e.g. 6 inches in 12 hours) or the combination of snow, sleet, freezing rain, and moderate winds will impact travel and outdoor activities and could become dangerous or deadly. An Ice Storm Warning is issued when mostly freezing rain is expected with ice accumulations of at least ¼ inch within a 12-hour period. When a Warning is issued, take necessary precautions and consider canceling travel plans.
- Blizzard Warning:A dangerous storm with winds that are 35 mph or greater in combination with falling and/or blowing snow that reduces visibility to a quarter mile or less for a duration of at least 3 hours. Canceling travel plans is advised.
- Snow Squall Warning: New warning to be implemented this season. A short duration warning issued for a relatively small geographic area when intense short-lived bursts of heavy snowfall occur. Although rare, these snow squalls can lead to quick reductions in visibilities and often accompanied by gusty winds. Sudden whiteout conditions and slick roads can develop.
- Wind Chill Advisory: Issued for bitter cold wind chills of 20 to 34 below zero (25 to 34 below zero in the northwest portion of the state)
- Wind Chill Warning: Issued with wind chills of 35 below zero (40 below zero for far NW portion of Wisconsin). Frostbite is possible when outside for ten minutes or less.
Winter Driving Safety
Winter driving can be extremely hazardous. Between 2014-2018, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation said an average of 46 people were killed and almost 4,200 injured each year in crashes on icy or snow-covered roads in the state. On average, there are about 18,000 vehicle crashes in the state each year caused by poor winter driving conditions.
You can check travel conditions for most major roadways in the state by using 511 Wisconsin, which is updated with the latest traffic and road conditions.