Extreme cold could break records in southern Wisconsin this week. More important, it could maim or kill.
Those are the worst outcomes of exposure to temperatures near 30 degrees below zero tonight and Wednesday night, not to mention wind chill values near minus-40 forecast for tonight.
Dr. Jay MacNeal, director of emergency medicine at Mercyhealth Hospital and Trauma Center, said he hasn’t seen any frostbite or hypothermia cases yet this year, but this cold snap could change that.
“I hope people continue to heed the warnings because at minus 25 and minus 30 (with 10 mph winds), you’re talking about getting frostbite within 10 minutes on exposed skin,” MacNeal said.
Beth Tallon, spokeswoman for Community Action of Rock and Walworth Counties, said a homeless person contacted the agency Monday, saying he is living in his car and has no place to go.
Tallon said the man could die if he doesn’t go to a shelter.
The cold is likely to lead to school closings, which could mean a lot of lost time to make up between now and June.
Wednesday will be the worst day this week, with a high temperature around minus 13 before plunging to minus 31, according to Accuweather.
“Quite honestly, just don’t go outside unless you have to,” MacNeal said.
Homeowners could see frozen pipes, and furnace outages could send families to public warming shelters (see accompanying list).
An ice jam on the Rock River was already pushing water inland in areas between Beloit and Janesville over the weekend, with three homes in the Happy Hollow area experiencing minor flooding. It was unclear whether the new cold blast would make matters worse.
The Rock County Sheriff’s Office recommends people limit their time outdoors and when they venture out to wear loose-fitting layers, hat, gloves, snow boots and a scarf or some other face covering.
MacNeal said hypothermia, a dangerous lowering of the body temperature, can lead to shivering, confusion, slurred speech, heart problems and, eventually, death.
Hypothermia is so dangerous that special equipment is used to inject warm fluids into blood vessels in extreme cases, MacNeal said.
Frostbite can mean loss of a body parts. MacNeal said it starts with numbness and stinging, burning or tingling. Then the skin gets cold and firm and feels waxy in appearance.
Frostbite then leads to pain and swelling and discoloration of the skin that can be white, blue, grayish or yellow, MacNeal said.
Those experiencing symptoms must get inside and rewarm affected areas, not letting them refreeze, he said.
While frostbitten body parts can be warmed and saved, the amount saved depends on how far the damage has gone, MacNeal said.
MacNeal also warned about using portable heaters that burn fuel indoors, as those produce carbon monoxide, a silent killer.
When using space heaters, make sure they are far enough from things that could catch fire.
Motorists should be sure to have an emergency kit in the car, MacNeal added.
The Rock County Sheriff’s Office recommends a car kit include food, water, blankets and warm clothing, booster cables, and a cellphone charger. Gas tanks should be kept at least half full.
A sheriff’s office news release noted blowing and drifting snow this week is expected to add to travel hazards.
The sheriff’s office also recommends:
The Janesville School District, which closed school for Monday’s snow, decided to close school again today and is likely to close or delay school again this week because of the cold, said Superintendent Steven Pophal.
The district likes to wait as long as possible to make sure forecasts are as accurate as possible, Pophal said, but more school closings could lead to added days of school in June or, more likely, longer school days through the rest of the year.
The state requires only a certain amount of minutes of instructional time, Pophal noted, so adding five or 10 minutes to remaining school days can make up for lost days.
Pophal said he likely would not close school with a wind chill above minus 30 in the morning.
If the wind chill is below minus 30 early in the morning but predicted to be above that mark by mid-morning, the district would likely start late, Pophal said.
Janesville has logged two snow days and one late start already this school year, so the Friday before Memorial Day—scheduled as a snow makeup day—will not be a day off, Pophal said.
More time off this week will result in time added to the school year, Pophal said.
Rural roads are generally more dangerous than those in the city, but the extreme cold could raise danger levels in town this week, said John Whitcomb, operations director for the city of Janesville Public Works Department.
Snow continued for much of Monday, making it difficult to keep streets clear, Whitcomb said.
After finishing residential areas around 10 p.m. Monday, crews were expected to return to the main thoroughfares, but by then temperatures will have fallen, so some of the main streets might still have slippery stretches for a few days, Whitcomb said.
Whitcomb said the city treats its salt with liquid calcium chloride, which makes it effective below zero, but not at 25 below.
Drivers in the city should allow extra time and slow down in the next few days to avoid slippery patches, Whitcomb said.
Then, above-freezing temperatures and rain this weekend could present a new challenge.
If the rain comes in large amounts, it could pool, causing flooding because the ground is frozen and storm-sewer catch basins could be frozen shut, Whitcomb said.
Whitcomb worried about a repeat of last February, when water flooded into homes and other places where it had never been seen before. He said he will be watching forecasts to see how much rain might fall.
UW-Whitewater announced Monday night that all classes, events and programs at its Whitewater and Janesville campuses are canceled from 5 p.m. today through 8 a.m. Friday.
Campus buildings will remain open, and the university said people experiencing difficulties can call university police at 262-472-4660.
Students needing hats, gloves, coats or other cold-weather gear can get them free at The Community Space, 834 E. Milwaukee, Whitewater. The facility accepts donations 24 hours a dayin its vestibule; visit Facebook.com/WhitewaterCommunity Space.
The university recommended its Rock County students seek help at echojanesville.org.
The following shelters are open during times stated, according to the Rock County Sheriff’s Office.
Dolores “Tootie” Deutscher
Lyle L. Fell
James A. Haeni
Stanley G. Hendrickson
Harold L. Lemke
James “Jim” Mahoney
Leonard E. Ray
Here’s how tough the Lego Robotics sectional competitions were: Some boys on the other teams had mustaches.
It’s not that facial hair gives someone an advantage. It just means that some competitors are far older and more experienced than others.
In First Lego League, teams of fourth- through eighth-graders compete against one another to solve a problem, code a robot and create something to make the world a better place, explained Chase Chamberlin, a Van Buren Elementary School fourth-grader.
So mustaches would be something she and her teammates would notice.
On Feb. 23, the Van Buren Robotic Eagles will battle at the state competition in Cleveland, Wisconsin. They are the first Janesville public elementary school team to make it that far. They’ll be joined by a team from St. William Catholic School, which is making its fourth appearance at state.
Here’s the thing about Lego Robotics: A fast robot is important, but if teammates can’t work together, the team won’t even make it to regionals.
The state competition has four components, including:
This year’s theme is “Into Orbit,” and teams were challenged to make life in space better for astronauts.
The Van Buren team designed a crumb collector. In space, astronauts are limited to crumb-free food, so no cookies, crackers or bread. And it doesn’t matter how long you are in space—no one is going to hand you a slice of birthday cake.
“The crumbs get stuck in the equipment,” said Evan Curlee, a Van Buren fifth-grader. “And they can end up in people’s eyes, too.”
Think of it like getting crumbs in your computer keyboard, except if your keyboard stopped working, you couldn’t go home—ever.
The crumb collector prototype features a large umbrella surrounded by a large piece of semi-clear plastic sheeting. The sides are sealed with every inventor’s best friend: duct tape. The astronaut sits under the umbrella and eats his or her crouton-covered salad with a side of tomato soup and oyster crackers. When the meal is finished, the astronaut attaches a special vacuum and sucks all the crumbs out of the enclosure.
Pass the cake, please.
At the competition, the Van Buren group must present its prototype to the judges.
They knew it had to be good, so they contacted Marcus Murdy, a Parker High School graduate and NASA aerospace engineer.
“He gave us some ideas on how to improve it,” Curlee said. “It also has to pass a smell test and has to be fireproof.”
The next part of the competition requires competitors to solve a problem as a team. One problem involved untying all the knots in a long rope, but each team member could use only one hand. Another problem asked kids to figure out how to turn over a rug without using their hands.
Judges watch to make sure all ideas are considered, even the crazy ones—because sometimes those crazy ideas work. Shouting and ordering people around is out of the question. Kids do better if it looks like they’re having fun.
Team members discuss the design and programming of their robots with the judges.
The robot moves across the game board and completes tasks, such as placing satellites into space, turning an observatory telescope, rolling over a crater, extracting ore and coping with a space walk emergency.
Each task is worth points.
On the Van Buren team, kids work in pairs to create the code that puts the robot through its paces.
Mentor Riley Meyer, a Parker High School senior and former Van Buren student, helps them solve problems when they are stuck, but they have to do the work themselves.
The kids know they face tough competition. They’re fourth- and fifth-graders, and they’ll be facing middle school students.
But team members think they’re ready. They’ve given up many of their recesses and have been working almost every day after school.
If the team wins at state, it will advance to the national competition in Detroit.
Van Buren Robotic Eagles team members include Evan Curlee, Amaya Holloway, Alivia Manthey, Haley White, Jadon Upham, Joe Bonilla, Lily Bondehagen, Austin Bier, Chase Chamberlin and Giselle Zuniga Montenegro. Coaches are Becky Carter, a fourth/fifth-grade teacher; Kaleigh Pope, an academic learning coach; and Catherine Boudreau, an instructional aide.
Results of an online survey indicate there is public support for building a new indoor sports facility to replace the Janesville Ice Arena, but questions remain over its design, location and financing.
Bill Krueger, a consultant from Convention, Sports & Leisure International who has led the Janesville feasibility study, gave a lengthy presentation Monday night to the city council. The existing city-owned arena is “clearly starting to show its age,” he said.
Primary tenants, in terms of hours spent at the facility, include Janesville Youth Hockey, the Janesville Figure Skating Club and the Janesville Jets.
Krueger had previously hosted two public listening sessions in August about the project. The consulting firm launched an online survey last fall.
Two possible options for a new facility would each include one permanent ice rink, one part-time ice rink and a walking track. The part-time rink could be drained in summer and used as a multipurpose space for basketball, volleyball or other sports, he said.
The base version of that plan is estimated to cost $23.9 million. Adding an indoor playground and more flexible space for non-ice sports would bring the cost to roughly $29.2 million, Krueger said.
Those price tags are comparable to similar facilities being constructed in the Fox Valley region and outside Des Moines, Iowa, Krueger said.
A new arena could boost Janesville’s profile for youth sports tournaments. Depending on its size, one could generate between $14 million and $17 million of annual economic impact, he said.
Two general location possibilities emerged during Krueger’s research: near downtown or near the transportation corridor on the city’s northeast side. He said it’s too early to zero in on specific sites.
As for financing, it will likely take some form of public-private partnership to make it happen. The city could sell naming rights to the building to defray costs, he said.
Neighborhood and Community Services Director Jennifer Petruzzello said her department and the consulting firm would spend the next few months doing more research on funding options and locations. In April, they would share those findings with the council and ask for authorization to enter the design phase.
Once that finishes, the council would have to approve a financing and construction plan. Construction would likely not start until 2020, she said.
The existing ice arena could then be sold or demolished, she said.