April 24, 2014

Bracing for an arctic blast

Monday morning will dawn dangerous across Wisconsin, as below zero temperatures combine with windy conditions for wind chills that could range to 60 below zero in some locations. “Once you get to about 20 below, the National Weather Service will put out a windchill advisory,” said Meteorologist Brian Olson with WKOW in Madison. “This time we’re probably going to be talking about windchill warnings, which is generally wind chills in excess of 35 degrees below zero.”

It’s conditions like that which will have school district superintendents around the state keeping close tabs on conditions. “We don’t want to make a decision too quickly, in case the situation would change, but at the same time we absolutely want to make the decision based on what is in the best interest of student safety,” said Manitowoc Public School District Superintendent Marcia Flaherty. Flaherty said she’ll be communicating with other superintendents in northeastern Wisconsin, and hopes to have a decision on cancelling classes by Sunday evening.

Milwaukee Public Schools, the state’s largest district, announced Friday afternoon that there would be no classes on Monday. The forecast for Monday calls for a high of 13 degrees below zero.

Widespread cancellations will have a cascading impact on businesses, because many parents will elect to stay home with their younger children. “Different sectors will have different challenges,” said Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce President and CEO Kurt Bauer. “Think about manufacturers. They need their workforce there in order to meet production goals, and of people are stuck at home with their kids, that will be a challenge.”

Olson hopes people will take the dangers posed by the wind chills seriously. “When you talk about your frostbite, when you talk about your hypothermia, that’s when this call all happen in just minutes.” Tuesday should being some relief, with high temperatures at or near zero in most locations around the state.