After a Thursday of icy rain, sliding vehicles and shuttered schools, area residents are bracing for a deep freeze today that will turn leftover puddles into skating rinks.
National Weather Service forecasters predict a high temperature near 9 degrees today with wind chills of minus 10 to minus 20, pushed by brisk west winds gusting up to 30 mph. Friday night’s low drops to minus 5 degrees with wind chills of minus 10 to minus 15, the weather service said.
It was unclear at press time Thursday if school districts would close schools for a second consecutive day.
Area school districts are dealing with a record number of snow days this season. The Janesville School District has closed school six days so far, and the winter is far from over.
However, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction has already told superintendents that it will not waive the required number of instructional hours, which would have given districts more flexibility on ways to make up for lost school time.
Thursday presented a safety issue as freezing rain made travel treacherous even for salt trucks.
Three or four Rock County salters went off the road Thursday morning, with two of them needing tow trucks to get out, said county Director of Public Works Duane Jorgenson.
“We were getting calls from people frustrated that we weren’t on top of it better this morning, but we had freezing rain around 3:30 to 4 a.m., so even if we were up all night, if we’re going to get that, we’re going to be fighting,” Jorgenson said Thursday morning.
“That morning commute was tough,” Jorgenson added. “It’s just one of those storms that—I don’t know how you manage that differently. The timing of it beat us up pretty good.
“It’s a slow go,” he said. “Our trucks are heavy, which is good, but ice is ice, and we slide around, too.”
The on-duty supervisor at the Rock County 911 Communications Center said emergency responders had handled four injury crashes, nine non-injury crashes and 15 run-off accidents between midnight and 7:10 a.m. Thursday.
Calls came in from all corners of the county, the supervisor said.
“It’s literally everywhere. I can’t think of an area that we haven’t had a call on,” she said.
More than 250 customers in southeastern Walworth County were without power at noon Thursday, Alliant Energy’s outage map indicated, and We Energies reported scattered outages in areas surrounding Elkhorn and in northeastern parts of Walworth County.
The Green County Sheriff’s Office reported dozens of slide-offs and stuck vehicles, particularly in rural areas of the county. Officials said first responders and salt trucks would be delayed responding to emergencies because of the conditions.
Officials across the area warned residents to stay home if possible.
Nobody had visited the emergency department at SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital-Janesville for falls or other weather-related injuries as of 11 a.m. Thursday, said Stacey Woodman, director of the emergency department and intensive care unit.
Mercyhealth Hospital and Trauma Center, Janesville, and Mercyhealth urgent care facilities saw “more than a handful” of falls from slippery conditions Thursday, said Trish Reed, spokeswoman for the health system.
Farm & Fleet in Janesville sold out of sidewalk salt and other products intended for such weather Thursday morning, but the store was selling water softener salt, a customer service worker said.
Dave’s Ace Hardware in Milton reported on its Facebook page that it had sold all its salt, more than 800 50-pounds bags.
Janesville salters have been at work nearly around the clock for the last two days and will work into Friday to catch up, said John Whitcomb, operations director for city public works.
Whitcomb said the city has enough salt for now, but when salt is in demand across a wide area, temporary supply problems crop up.
Whitcomb said more snow is in the forecast for early next week.
“It’s going to be bad for a while,” he said, adding with a Wisconsin wintry mix of humor and truth: “Maybe till April.”
The Beloit and Delavan Shopko stores are among 139 more stores the company is closing this year, a Shopko spokeswoman announced Thursday.
The Beloit store at 2761 Prairie Ave. will close May 12. The Delavan store at 1450 E. Geneva St. will close May 5, according to a statement from spokeswoman Michelle Hansen.
A list of closures is available on the company’s website.
The Janesville store is not on the list.
About 50 optical centers in the closing stores will become freestanding locations, including the optical center at the Mineral Point Road location in Madison, according to a list on the website.
The company believes operating fewer stores will help Shopko “emerge as a stronger company,” attract potential buyers and overcome bankruptcy, according to the statement.
Beloit’s Shopko is the anchor store in a strip mall that includes Joann Fabrics and Crafts, Get It Now rent-to-own furniture and appliance store, Cricket Wireless and Johnny’s Cafe.
Shopko owns the facility and parking lot in Beloit. The rest of the strip mall is owned by Key Star Capital Fund, according to city land records.
The Greater Beloit Economic Development Corporation will make itself available to Shopko’s real estate division as a resource as it moves forward with liquidating the property, Andrew Janke, executive director for the economic development group, said in a statement.
Krista Sholes, manager at Joann Fabrics and Crafts, said she is only a little nervous about the Shopko closure.
Sholes learned of the closure Wednesday night and said she hopes it won’t affect business at Joann Fabrics. Many customers visit both stores when at the strip mall, she said.
In a statement, Beloit City Manager Lori Curtis Luther said Shopko’s closing follows a nationwide trend of brick-and-mortar businesses closing.
The city is “saddened” to see the business close and leave displaced workers, Curtis Luther said in the statement.
The city manager encourages those looking for jobs to visit jobsinrock county.com.
Shopko announced in January it had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in Nebraska.
The Green Bay-based company announced 39 closures across 14 states in December. Nine more Wisconsin store closures were announced in January.
Shopko began closing in-store pharmacies at the beginning of the year, including the Janesville and Beloit Shopko pharmacies.
Local Shopko pharmacy customer files have been transferred to CVS pharmacy locations.
Dorothy A. Albert
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Catherine D. Joholski
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Joan M. Pancratz
Ronald S. Staben
Democrats launched a sweeping plan Thursday to transform the U.S. economy to combat climate change and create thousands of jobs in renewable energy, signaling its likely elevation as a central campaign issue in 2020 despite President Donald Trump’s failure to mention climate change in his State of the Union address.
At least six senators running for president or considering White House bids backed the Green New Deal put forth by freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and veteran Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts. The nonbinding resolution calls for a “10-year national mobilization” on the scale of the original New Deal to shift the economy away from fossil fuels such as oil and coal and replace them with renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power. It sets a goal to meet “100 percent of the power demand in the United States through clean, renewable and zero-emission energy sources,” including nuclear power.
“Our energy future will not be found in the dark of a mine but in the light of the sun,” Markey said at a Capitol news conference.
The plan goes far beyond energy to urge national health care coverage and job guarantees, as well as high-quality education and affordable housing. The resolution urges elimination of fossil fuels pollution and greenhouse gas emissions “as much as technologically feasible” in a range of economic sectors and calls for “upgrading all existing buildings in the United States” to be energy-efficient.
Markey predicted more Democrats would sign on as the plan gets better known and said some Republicans might back it. More than 80 percent of registered voters supported the concept of a Green New Deal in a December poll by Yale and George Mason universities.
“This is now a voting issue across the country,” Markey said. “The green generation has risen up, and they are saying they want this issue solved” as one of the top two or three issues in the 2020 election. A coalition of labor, economic justice, racial justice, indigenous and environmental organizations immediately announced their support.
While setting lofty goals, the plan does not explicitly call for eliminating the use of fossil fuels such as oil and natural gas, a nod to pragmatism that could disappoint some of Ocasio-Cortez’s strongest backers.
Even so, the Green New Deal is more ambitious than the Clean Power Plan proposed by former President Barack Obama to impose emissions limits on coal-fired power plants. Trump, who is skeptical of climate change, scrapped Obama’s plan as a job killer.
While Democrats did not specify a price tag, some Republicans predict it would cost in the trillions of dollars. GOP lawmakers denounced the plan as a radical proposal that would drive the economy off a cliff and lead to a huge tax increase.
“The Green New Deal is a raw deal for the American taxpayer,” said Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
Barrasso called the plan “a socialist manifesto that lays out a laundry list of government giveaways, including guaranteed food, housing, college and economic security even for those who refuse to work.”
Ocasio-Cortez said the plan’s scope was its strength, saying “small, incremental policy solutions are not enough” to stem climate change, which she called an “existential threat” to the planet. Far from overreach, the plan addresses a sense of growing frustration by young people and others who “don’t feel we’re being ambitious enough” to address a potentially cataclysmic danger, she said.
With a whiff of presidential politics and a rock-star freshman in attendance, Democrats drew an unusually large crowd for the Green New Deal unveiling. The outdoor event was attended by more journalists and activists than lawmakers. It was a notable gathering for a proposal that is not a bill, but only guidance for any legislation on climate change Congress develops.
The measure is supported by at least six senators with their eyes on the White House: Cory Booker of New Jersey, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Kamala Harris of California, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.
None of the six attended the news conference; House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said hours earlier she hadn’t read the proposal. Pelosi did not explicitly endorse it, but welcomed “the enthusiasm” of its backers.
“I welcome the Green New Deal and any other proposals” to address climate change, Pelosi said, adding that she also wants to hear from a new House committee on climate change. Pelosi said the panel will “spearhead Democrats’ work” on climate issues.
Ocasio-Cortez said Pelosi invited her to join the climate panel but she declined, saying she wants to focus on the Green New Deal and other committee assignments.
The resolution introduced Thursday marks the first legislative language attached to the Green New Deal, a concept that until now has been loosely defined as a call for action to head off catastrophic climate change and create jobs.
Answering critics who call the plan unrealistic, Ocasio-Cortez said that when President John F. Kennedy wanted to go to the moon by the end of the 1960s, “people said it was impossible.” She compared the plan to Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal and Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society.
While focusing on renewable energy, Ocasio-Cortez said the plan would include existing nuclear power plants but block new nuclear plants. Nuclear power does not emit greenhouse gases, which contribute to global warming.
Asked how the plan would be paid for, Ocasio-Cortez said it would be “the same way we paid for the original New Deal, World War II, the bank bailouts, tax cuts for the rich and decades of war—with public money appropriated by Congress.”
She called the plan an “investment” that would produce more than it costs in new infrastructure, jobs and avoided health care costs.