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Wisconsin humans and animals to face life-threatening cold weather

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An arctic blast is headed for Wisconsin, with sub-zero temperatures and extreme wind chills in the weather forecast for nearly a week.

From Saturday evening, January 4 (or early Sunday morning, January 5), through at least Tuesday, January 7, the temperature lows are expected to reach levels not found in Wisconsin since 1996, according to a January 2 official statement from the Wisconsin Department of Military Affairs’ Division of Emergency Management.

Badger State public safety experts, such as the Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection (DATCP), the Department of Health Services (DHS), and Ready Wisconsin, are warning people to take necessary precautions.

The US National Weather Service (NWS) forecasts bitter cold conditions, beginning January 4 and continuing through January 7. Across the state, daytime temperatures are likely to drop to -10 (F) degrees, with overnight temperatures hitting as low as -25 (F) degrees. Wind chills may hover in the -30 (F) to -40 (F) area.

These conditions are considered dangerous, posing threats of frostbite and hypothermia to those who remain outside for more than a few minutes.

Carbon monoxide poisoning is another possible peril, if indoor heating systems or warming appliances malfunction or if vehicles are left running in garages (even with large doors open).

“No doubt furnaces, fireplaces, wood stoves, and other home heating devices will be working overtime during these extremely cold temperatures, and that can increase the risk for carbon monoxide poisoning,” said Karen McKeown, State Health Officer, on January 2.

Carbon monoxide alarms are recommended, particularly in homes and other residential buildings.

Pets must be protected during these weather conditions as well. Leaving cats or dogs outside too long, or even in closed parked cars, can quickly lead to harm or tragedy. Motorists need to check under vehicles, as animals may seek warmth and shelter there.

What about horses, livestock, and other animals living outdoors during this cold spell?

Horses, cows, goats, sheep, and other animals need some sort of shelter from the wind and elements. Dry bedding, piled extra deep, can add warmth as well. Ample forage and fresh water are essential.

“Livestock owners need to provide extra nutrition, plenty of good bedding, and protection from winds and moisture,” says state humane veterinarian Dr. Yvonne Bellay. “Be particularly careful with animals that have recently been brought here from a warmer climate or that have been indoors and are now outdoors. If they’re not acclimated, they’ll suffer more winter illness.”

Even horses that are not routinely blanketed for winter may benefit from the added protection of temporary coverage during these severe conditions.

Extra care may be needed for recent foals, calves, and any animal with special health vulnerabilities.

Will schools be canceled and businesses closed during the dangerous cold spell?

This is a distinct possibility, although school closure and business shutdown decisions may be announced individually. Local news channels will carry updates, as with snow closures.

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