Washington County Sheriff - Winter Articles

Winter in Wisconsin can be fun and exciting. Driving in or after an ice storm may be dangerous. Follow these tips and suggestions to keep you and your family safe this winter.

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Winter Safety Articles


Cold Weather Survival

Protect Yourself

Protect Yourself at Home


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Ice Dams and Attic Condensation

Ice Dams And Attic Condensation

While stopping a leak or repairing a hose down in the basement might be fairly straightforward, ice dams and attic condensation, two forms of water damage typical to cold climate homes, are a little more complicated and a little trickier to fix. And since many homeowners aren't frequent visitors to their own attics in the frigid winter months, water damage on the top floor might catch you off guard.

What are ice dams? What causes attic condensation? And if you’ve got either, what can you do?

Ice Dams
When the temperature in your attic is above freezing, snow on the roof will likely melt. When the snowmelt runs down the roof and hits the colder eaves, it refreezes, especially if the temperature drops again.
If this cycle repeats over several days, the freezing snowmelt builds up and forms a dam of ice, behind which water pools up into large puddles, or "ponds". The ponding water can then back up under the roof covering and leak into the attic or along exterior walls.

The right weather conditions for ice dams are usually when outside air temperatures are in the low 20s (°F) for several days with several inches of snow on the roof.

Attic Condensation
Condensation of water vapor on cold surfaces in attics can cause wood to rot, which can lead to costly repairs. Condensation typically occurs when warm, moist air migrates into the attic from living spaces below. Research indicates unusually high humidity in the home's living spaces is strongly associated with attic condensation problems.

Building codes have some requirements that attempt to prevent the problems of ice dams and attic condensation. But codes don’t address all the issues, and many houses are built without following building codes. First and foremost, it’s your builder or designer's job to understand the relationship of humidity and air movement when designing and constructing the house so these problems don't occur.
Nevertheless, there's more you can do. Here are a few simple steps that can help prevent ice dams and condensation in your attic:

What Not To Do
While it might be tempting to try a quick-fix to break up that ice dam, don’t get too eager; not only is it dangerous on your roof, but you can also cause a lot of damage, especially in the colder months. Here are some things to keep in mind:


Article by: Prevent Ice Dams Website


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Ice Fishing Safety

Although these tips are practical and could be life-saving, common sense is your first avenue of defense.  Don’t drive any vehicle out on the ice when it has been 40 degrees or warmer for more than 2 days! 

Common sense is the greatest ally in preventing ice related accidents, and that includes checking ice conditions and preparing oneself before venturing out. Five minutes of checking ice from shore, talking to local authorities or bait shops, and systematic checks while going out on the ice can make the difference between an enjoyable winter experience and a tragedy, he says.


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Ice Safety Tips

If you head out to one of Wisconsin's many lakes or rivers to ice fish, snowmobile, ATV, cross-country ski, or just to enjoy a winter day, we want you to have fun and be safe. A bit of advance planning and practicing basic ice precautions can help you return home safely.

When is ice safe?

There really is no sure answer, and no such thing as 100 percent safe ice. You cannot judge the strength of ice by one factor like its appearance, age, thickness, temperature or whether the ice is covered with snow. Ice strength is based on a combination of several factors, and they can vary from water body to water body. Ice strength can also vary in different areas of the same body of water.

Know before you go

Because ice conditions vary, it is important to know before you go. The DNR does not monitor local ice conditions or the thickness of the ice. Local bait shops, fishing clubs and resorts serve winter anglers every day and often have the most up-to-date information on how thick the ice is on local lakes and rivers, as well as areas that are especially dangerous.

Safety tips

What to do if you fall through ice

If you fall through the ice, remain calm and act quickly.

  1. Do not remove your winter clothing. Heavy clothes can trap air, which can help provide warmth and flotation. This is especially true in a snowmobile suit.
  2. Go back toward the direction you came. That is probably where you will find the strongest ice – and what lies ahead is unknown.
  3. Place your hands and arms on the unbroken surface. This is where a pair of nails, sharpened screwdrivers or ice picks are handy in providing the extra traction you need to pull yourself up onto the ice.
  4. Kick your feet and dig in your ice picks to work your way back onto the solid ice. If your clothes have trapped a lot of water, you may have to lift yourself partially out of the water on your elbows to let the water drain before starting forward.
  5. Once back on the ice, don't try to stand up. Lie flat until you are completely out of the water, then roll away from the hole to keep your weight spread out. This may help prevent you from breaking through again.
  6. Get to a warm, dry, sheltered area and warm yourself up immediately. In moderate to severe cases of cold-water hypothermia, you must seek medical attention. Cold blood trapped in your extremities can come rushing back to your heart after you begin to warm up. The shock of the chilled blood may cause ventricular fibrillation leading to a heart attack and death!


Article by: http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/outdoorrecreation/activities/icesafety.html


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Prevent Snow Removal Injuries

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) estimates there are 5,740 hospital emergency room injuries a year caused by snow blowers. The CPSC reports 19 deaths since 1992 from using snow blowers. Five deaths were caused by carbon monoxide poisoning because someone left the engine running in an enclosed area.

Injury Profile:

Injury Causes:

If Your Snow Blower Jams:

Three Snow Blower Safety Tips:



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Snowmobile Registration


Registration information

Snowmobile registration is required for operation of any snowmobile within the state - unless the operation is exempt from registration - and the registration decals must be properly displayed. Note: Proof of sales tax payment is required for all sales transactions. Sales tax paid to another state on the snowmobile may be claimed as a credit to reduce the tax payable.

Definition of snowmobile

Public use registration

All snowmobiles operated in Wisconsin must be registered. Public use registration allows you to operate your snowmobile on any area open to public riding and on private property with the appropriate permission.

Private use registration

Private use registration is for a snowmobile used exclusively on private property - i.e. use of a snowmobile is by the owner of the snowmobile, or a member of his/her immediate family, and on land owned or leased by the snowmobile owner or a member of his/her immediate family).
A snowmobile private use registration certificate is valid from the date of issuance until ownership of the snowmobile is transferred.

Nonresident snowmobile registration

A snowmobile operated on a public trail or corridor needs to display valid Wisconsin Public Use snowmobile registration or needs to display a valid Nonresident Snowmobile Trail Pass and valid nonresident registration. Nonresident customers choosing to register their snowmobile in Wisconsin will be liable to the Department of Revenue for sales tax on the purchase of the machine.

Note: A "corridor" includes a marked area across frozen waterways or area across frozen waterways as indicated on a county snowmobile trail map. It does not include routes.

A snowmobile operated on private property or frozen waterways outside a corridor needs to display valid Wisconsin snowmobile registration or needs to display valid registration from another state.

Visit sales locations to find an agent near you to purchase a Nonresident Snowmobile Trail Pass.

Article by: http://dnr.wi.gov/permits/registrationandtitling.html


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Snowmobile Rules


All states have laws and rules regarding the operation of snowmobiles. It is best to know these laws if you are traveling out of your home state.  The following are state laws for our state, Wisconsin.


The $18.00 annual non-resident snowmobile trail use pass is valid from July 1, 2014 through June 30, 2015.  NEW REGULATIONS GO INTO EFFECT JULY 1, 2015.  Visit the link to the WI DNR website for up-to-date rules and fees.

2014 Season:

A snowmobile trail pass is required to operate a snowmobile not currently registered in Wisconsin on a snowmobile trail. The snowmobile must be currently registered with another jurisdiction. These passes can be purchased in Wisconsin or online at http://www.wildlifelicense.com/wi/.

No person under the age of 12 years may operate a snowmobile unless the person is accompanied on the same snowmobile, either by a parent or guardian or by a person over 18 years of age. Any person who is born on or after 1/1/85 and who has reached the age of 12, must have completed and received a snowmobile safety certificate in order to operate a snowmobile in Wisconsin. The certificate must be carried while operating the snowmobile. Other states and provinces that issue a snowmobile safety certificate to snowmobilers will be honored in Wisconsin.

Remember: NEW REGULATIONS GO INTO EFFECT JULY 1, 2015.  Visit the link to the WI DNR website for up-to-date rules and fees.


Wisconsin DNR: http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/snowmobile/


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Tips for Weathering Winter

Article from: EPA


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WI Winter Safety Tips