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
- Dress in several layers of lightweight clothing, which will keep you warmer than a single heavy coat.
- Mittens provide more warmth to your hands than gloves. Wear a hat, preferably one that covers your ears.
- Wear waterproof, insulated boots to keep your feet warm and dry and to maintain your footing in ice and snow.
- Take frequent breaks and stay hydrated.
- Seek medical attention immediately if you have symptoms of hypothermia including confusion, dizziness, exhaustion and severe shivering.
- Seek medical attention immediately if you have symptoms of frostbite including numbness, flushed gray, white, blue or yellow skin discoloration, numbness, or waxy feeling skin.
Protect Yourself at Home
- Be careful with candles – do not use candles for lighting if the power goes out. Use flashlights only.
- Inspect fireplaces and wood stoves yearly - use a sturdy fire screen with lit fires. Burn only wood - never burn paper or pine boughs.
- Use generators correctly –never operate a generator inside your home, including the basement or garage. Do not hook up a generator directly to your home's wiring. The safest thing to do is to connect the equipment you want to power directly to the outlets on the generator.
- Prevent frozen pipes - when the weather is very cold outside, open cabinet doors to let warm air circulate around water pipes. Let the cold water drip from the faucet served by exposed pipes. Running water through the pipe - even at a trickle - helps prevent pipes from freezing because the temperature of the water running through it is above freezing. Keep the thermostat set to a consistent temperature.
- Check smoke alarms once a month by pressing the test button and replace batteries as necessary.
- Don’t overload your electrical outlets.
- Don’t forget your pets – bring them indoors. If you can’t bring them inside, provide adequate shelter to keep them warm and make sure they can get to unfrozen water.
- If you plan on using an alternate heating source, never use a stove or oven to heat your home.
- Keep a glass or metal fire screen around the fireplace and never leave a fireplace fire unattended.
- If using a space heater, follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how to safely use the heater. Place it on a level, hard, nonflammable surface. Turn the space heater off when you leave the room or go to sleep. Keep children and pets away from your space heater and do not use it to dry wet clothing
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?
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.
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:
- Prevent warm, moist downstairs air from infiltrating the attic by appropriately insulating your attic’s floor and using a dehumidifier to control water vapor.
- Seal all openings that would allow vapor to rise into the attic. Avoid designing ceiling mounted fixtures below the attic that create the need for holes in the drywall or plaster ceiling. If this cannot be done, seal around all penetrations to make them airtight. Ceiling-mounted light fixtures and ceiling fans have electrical junction boxes mounted flush in the ceiling – these often have a number of holes in them that need to be sealed.
- Research shows keeping the attic air temperature below freezing when the outside air temperature is in the low 20s can reduce the occurrence of ice dams.
- Provide good attic ventilation to replace warm air in the attic with cold outside air.
- Consult a professional for the best way to avoid ice dams and water damage in your home.
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:
- Do not routinely remove snow from the roof or attempt to “chip away” the ice of an ice dam. It will likely lead to shingle damage.
- Do not install large mechanical equipment or water heaters in attics, especially in cold climates. Not only do they present an unwelcome fire hazard, but they’ll also increase the temperature in your attic.
- Do not use salt or calcium chloride to melt snow on a roof. These chemicals are very corrosive and can shorten the life of metal gutters, downspouts, and flashings. Runoff that contains high concentrations of these chemicals can damage nearby grass and plants.
- Keeping the gutters clean of leaves will not necessarily prevent ice dams. However, clean gutters can help keep them from overflowing and spilling rainwater next to the house.
Article by: Prevent Ice Dams Website
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!
- Clear, solid ice at least two inches thick is usually sufficient to hold a single person walking on foot. For safety’s sake, wait until the ice is at least three inches thick and go with a friend. Keep a least 50 feet of distance between each other. Ice fishing with several friends and gear requires at least four inches of ice, and snowmobiles and ATV’s five inches.
- Ice will generally be thicker near shore and get thinner as one ventures out. Check ice thickness with an ice spud or auger starting from a few feet from shore and every 10 to 20 feet as one goes towards the middle of the waterway.
- Lake ice is generally stronger than river ice. Springs, lake inlets and outlets, and channels can alter ice thickness.
- Before heading out onto early or newly formed ice, check with a local bait shop, resort owner, or outdoors store regarding ice thickness or known thin spots.
- Ice claws: nail heads are ground off to a point and then covered with corks to prevent injury. The cord, made to the correct length, can be worn inside the jacket with each claw inside a sleeve. Or they can be draped over the shoulder and inside the coat. The wooden dowels and nylon cord will float, so they are accessible in an emergency.
- Whether alone or with a friend on early ice, always carry a couple of large sharpened nails and a length of rope in an easily accessible pocket. The nails or commercially bought ice grabbers can help a person pull themselves out of the water an on to more solid ice. The rope can be thrown to another person for rescue.
- If you are alone and go through the ice, take a few seconds to get over the “cold shock.” Regain your breathing, kick hard and try to swim up onto the ice. If successful, crawl on your hands and knees or roll to more solid ice. Get to the nearest warm place quickly. If your attempts to swim onto the ice area unsuccessful, get as much of your body out of the water and yell for help. Studies show you will have about 30 minutes or more before the body is incapacitated by hypothermia.
- Proper clothing can increase chances of survival should a person break through the ice. A snowmobile type suit if it is zipped can and will trap air and slow the body’s heat loss. Once filled with water, however, insulated suits become heavy and will hinder rescue. Newer model snowmobile suits have flotation material built in and anyone traversing ice should consider purchasing one of these suits. On early ice it is advised to wear a personal flotation device.
- Refrain from driving on ice whenever possible. Traveling in a vehicle, especially early or late in the season, is an accident waiting to happen.
- When driving on ice be prepared to leave the vehicle in a hurry. Unbuckle the seatbelt and have a simple plan of action in case of ice break through. Anglers may want to leave a window open for an easy exit.
- Often vehicles will establish roads from shore to the current fishing hotspots. Repeated vehicle use may cause the ice to weaken. The ice roads may not always be the safest routes.
- When using a gas or liquid heater to warm an ice shack or tent make sure it is properly ventilated with at least two openings, one at the top and one at the bottom of the structure. Any flame eats oxygen so proper ventilation is required.
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.
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.
- Dress warmly in layers.
- Don't go alone. Head out with friends or family. Take a cell phone if available, and make sure someone knows where you are and when you are expected to return.
- Know before you go. Don't travel in areas you are not familiar and don't travel at night or during reduced visibility.
- Avoid inlets, outlets or narrow that may have current that can thin the ice.
- Look for clear ice, which is generally stronger than ice with snow on it or bubbles in it.
- Carry some basic safety gear: ice claws or picks, a cellphone in a waterproof bag or case, a life jacket and length of rope.
What to do if you fall through ice
If you fall through the ice, remain calm and act quickly.
- 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.
- Go back toward the direction you came. That is probably where you will find the strongest ice – and what lies ahead is unknown.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
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.
- Average age: 44 years
- Sex: Male
- 90% of injuries: dominant hand
- Amputations of tips of fingers
- Middle finger most commonly injured
- Snow clogging the exit chute of the machine
- Not noticing that the impeller blades are still rotating even though the machine is off
- Operator attempts to clean the clogged exit chute with hands
- Hands connect with the rotating blades, resulting in severe injury snow blowers are safe if used properly
If Your Snow Blower Jams:
- Turn it OFF!
- Disengage clutch.
- Wait five seconds after shutting machine off to allow impeller blades to stop rotating.
- ALWAYS use a stick or broom handle to clear impacted snow.
- NEVER put your hand down chute or around blades.
- Keep all shields in place. DO NOT REMOVE the safety devices on the machine.
- Keep hands and feet away from all moving parts.
- Keep a clear head, concentrate
- DO NOT DRINK before using your snow blower!
Three Snow Blower Safety Tips:
- Never put your hands inside the snow blower chute for any reason. If the chute becomes clogged with snow (or another object), turn it off, wait for all moving parts to come to a complete stop and then clear the chute with a stick. It may be frigid outside but don’t risk not shutting off your machine to clear an object, because once you clear the obstruction, the parts will start to move again!
- Dress properly for the job. Be sure to wear adequate winter clothing and footwear that will improve footing on slippery surfaces. Wear safety glasses, and avoid any loose fitting clothing that could get caught in moving parts. Be careful of long hair. Wear ear plugs or other ear protection – they are loud!
- Remove debris and other obstacles (door mats, toys, decorations) the snow blower might strike or throw, as they may cause injury or damage to the snow blower.
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
- In Wisconsin, a snowmobile is an engine-driven vehicle that is manufactured solely for snowmobiling that has an endless belt tread and sled-type runners, or skis, to be used in contact with snow. All snowmobiles must be 48 inches wide or less. The definition includes a child-sized snowmobile - see exceptions below for additional information.
- A child's snowmobile is a snowmobile that is driven by a four horsepower (approximately 120 cubic centimeters in size) or less engine.
- If operating a child's snowmobile on public areas - A child's snowmobile needs to be registered. This also includes frozen waters. Note: Please refer to the Wisconsin Snowmobile Laws pamphlet PUBL-LE-201 for child's snowmobile and age-riding restrictions.)
- If operating a child's snowmobile in sanctioned races, derbies, competitions or exhibitions - Under these circumstances, registration is not required.
- If operating a child's snowmobile on private property registration is not required, so long as the snowmobile is operated only on private property and is not operated on any part of a public trail.
- A vehicle that has inflatable tires is not considered a snowmobile even if skis are attached. An ATV or similar machine that is converted with an aftermarket kit, complete with skis and a track cannot be registered as a snowmobile and cannot be driven on snowmobile trails.
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.
STATE LAWS AND 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.
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/
- Consider using non-toxic de-icing substances such as clean clay cat litter, sand, or fireplace/stove ash to prevent hazardous waste from chemicals. Chemical de-icers can be hazardous to your pets, your trees and shrubs, and the environment.
- Winterize your vehicle by checking your air filter and fluid levels, checking tires for tread wear and proper inflation, and checking the condition of your windshield wipers. Ensuring your vehicle is ready for weather changes will keep you safe on the road.
- If you have a wood-burning fireplace, save your ashes in a tin instead of throwing them away. Cold wood ashes can be mixed in your compost heap to create a valuable soil amendment that provides nutrients to your garden.
- Winter storms often cause power outages. Prevent waste by keeping rechargeable batteries rather than disposable ones stored throughout your house with your flashlights. If you do use disposable batteries, prevent hazardous waste by buying batteries with low mercury content.
- Recycle old newspapers by making rolled paper logs for your fireplace. Roll newspaper sheets around a broom stick until your log is the desired size; then soak your log thoroughly in water. Dry the log overnight and use like ordinary wood. Always follow proper safety precautions when burning anything around your home.
Article from: EPA
- Flashlights and extra batteries
- Battery-powered NOAA Weather Radio and a commercial radio
- Bottled water and non-perishable food that requires no cooking
- First-aid supplies
- Fire extinguisher, smoke detector and carbon monoxide detector
- If appropriate, extra medications and baby items
- If you have an emergency heating source such as a fireplace or space heater, make sure you have proper ventilation
- Make sure pets have shelter and plenty of food and water
- The coldest temperature in the winter of 2010-11 was -37° Fahrenheit (F) at Ladysmith 3SW (Rusk Co.) on January 22, 2011.
- The Hurley, WI–Ironwood, MI, area in Iron County had the most snow of 167 inches in the winter of 2010-11, while Waunakee in Dane County had the least with only 37.2 inches. Most of the northern two-thirds of the state had 60 to 95 inches, while the southern third had 40 to 60 inches. The 92.6" in Green Bay during the '10-'11 winter was the highest amount in modern-day history. Only the winters of 1889-90 and 1887-88 had more snow.
- Wisconsin's all-time, lowest temperature is -55°F on February 2 & 4, 1996, near Couderay (Sawyer Co.). Readings of -30°F or colder have been recorded in every month from November through April. Of course, brief readings in the 50's, 60's and 70's are possible during winter as well!
- Average annual snowfall ranges from 35 to 40 inches near the Illinois border to 135 to 165 inches in the Iron County snow-belt from Gurney to Hurley.
- Greatest daily total – 26.0 inches of snow, at Neillsville on Dec. 27, 1904, and Pell Lake on Feb. 2, 2011.
- Greatest single storm total - Superior, 31.0 inches over Oct. 31-Nov. 2, 1991.
- Greatest monthly total - Hurley, 103.5 inches in Jan. 1997.
- Greatest seasonal total - Hurley, 301.8 inches in winter of 1996-97.
- Deepest snow on ground (excluding drifts) - Hurley, 60.0 inches on Jan. 30, 1996.
Keep Warm and Safe
Frostbite is damage to body tissue caused by extreme cold. A wind chill around –20°F could cause frostbite in just 15 minutes or less. Frostbite causes a loss of feeling and a white or pale appearance in extremities such as fingers, toes, ear tips or the tip of the nose. If symptoms are detected, seek medical care immediately!
Hypothermia is a condition that develops when the body temperature drops below 95°F. It is very deadly. Warning signs include uncontrollable shivering, disorientation, slurred speech and drowsiness. Seek medical care immediately!
Overexertion is dangerous. Cold weather puts an added strain on the heart. Unaccustomed exercise such as shoveling snow or pushing a car can bring on a heart attack or make an existing medical condition worse.
Pets also need extra care when the temperatures fall. They should be brought inside when the temperature reaches 30°F with wind chill. Dogs and cats can get frost bitten ears, nose and feet if left outside during bitter cold weather. Chemicals used to melt snow and ice can also irritate pets' paws - be sure to keep anti-freeze, salt and other poisons away from pets.
Some of the dangers associated with winter storms include loss of heat, power and telephone service and a shortage of supplies. To help protect your family, now is the time to put together a disaster supply kit. Here are some items to include:
Wisconsin Winter Weather Facts – National Weather Service
Official snowfall records
For additional information, contact your county emergency management office, the National Weather Service or ReadyWisconsin. Tips on winter safety, developing your own personal preparedness plan and building an emergency kit can also be found at the following website: http://www.weather.gov
Article from: http://ready.wi.gov/winter/winter_weather_facts.asp
Information and recommendations are compiled from sources believed to be reliable. The Sheriff’s Office makes no guarantee as to and assumes no responsibility for the correctness, sufficiency or completeness of such information or recommendations. Other or additional safety measures may be required under particular circumstances.
Last Revised: 11/2015