TOWN OF JANESVILLE — The dangerously cold weather gripping southern Wisconsin sent Rock County Sheriff's Office deputies on an all-night search for a man seen stumbling along a road west of Janesville on Monday night.
"We certainly had great fear for somebody out last night based on the weather conditions and the possibility of them enduring some real hardship during that cold weather," Cmdr. Troy Knudson said Tuesday.
The man wasn't found, despite hours of searching and an airplane equipped with an infrared camera.
The low temperature Monday night dipped to minus–16 degrees with the wind chill.
Deputies were dispatched at 8:26 p.m. Monday to the intersection of North Little Road and County A in the town of Janesville to search for a white man reported to be having difficulty with his balance while walking.
The man was described as being in his late 40s to late 50s, about 6 feet tall, weighing around 225 pounds with dark facial hair, and wearing a tan coat with dark pants. A passerby driving on County A reported seeing the man walking and sometimes falling on the road. The man was last seen cutting across a field.
At the time, the temperature was 2 degrees with a wind chill of 14 below zero.
Janesville police sent a canine unit to try and track the man, and the Janesville Fire Department provided a thermal imaging camera.
Deputies searched ditch lines and fields using all-terrain and four-wheel-drive vehicles. The state Department of Natural Resources deployed an airplane equipped with thermal imaging equipment and flew in the area until 4:30 a.m. Tuesday.
About 20 people worked in shifts to be safe from the extreme cold to search the area, Knudson said.
The search resumed at 8 a.m. Tuesday but was suspended at 11 a.m. "unless we get further information," Knudson said.
Anyone with information that would help the sheriff's office determine the man's well being can call the Rock County Communications Center at 608-757-2244.
Temperatures and wind chills are expected to continue to make the air feel bitterly cold. Today, temperatures will reach highs of near 20 degrees, but wind chills will make it feel as if temperatures are between minus–5 and 0 degrees, according to the National Weather Service.
Subzero temperatures will continue into Thursday, with up to an inch of snow expected Thursday night.
In La Crosse, police reminded residents of an ordinance that prevents them from walking away while they warm their cars. Janesville has a similar ordinance, but it isn't often enforced, said Janesville Police Sgt. Chad Pearson.
"It's to prevent car thieves and joy riders," Pearson said.
Pearson said the department does see an increase in calls for vehicle unlocks in the cold weather. This comes from people leaving the grocery store or their homes to warm their cars before putting a child inside—and then lock their keys in the car.