Dangerous, bitter wind chills strike snow-covered Midwest

Frostbite can hurt exposed skin

MADISON, Wis. - Widespread fresh snow cover over the entire Midwest coupled with clear to partly cloudy at night and an Arctic air mass moving in from Canada will lead to the coldest weather of this early winter season.

Temperatures Saturday morning fell to between 5 and 15 degrees below zero near Madison and areas to the west and north of town. Brisk winds in the 10 to 20 mph range caused wind chills to drop to bitterly cold levels between -20 and -30, with areas of central Wisconsin seeing dangerously cold wind chills near -35.

As a point of reference, wind chills of -20 to -30 can cause frostbite to exposed skin with about 30 minutes of exposure. Wind chills around -35 can lead to frostbite in only 10 minutes.

Bitterly cold weather will continue from Saturday afternoon through the New Year's holiday through Tuesday of next week. Low temperatures will be near -10 through early Tuesday morning, while wind chills could drop to as cold as -30 at times. High temperatures will struggle to get only a few degrees above zero through New Year's Day, perhaps reaching the 10-degree mark by next Tuesday afternoon. Wind chills will stay below zero during the day, possibly as cold as -20 at times.

If you are venturing outdoors during this frigid spell of weather, make sure you dress in layers to trap layers of air to insulate you from the cold. Wear warm shoes or boots, and make sure as much exposed skin as possible is covered by gloves, hats, ear muffs, and scarves. Pay special attention to infants and young children, who may not be able to express how cold they are feeling, as well as the elderly and those in poor health, who are affected more than others by weather extremes.

If you are traveling, make sure your gas tank is full, your car is in good winter driving condition, and you have an emergency supply kit with extra clothes, blankets, non-perishable food, hand warmers, and a way of melting water to drink. If your car breaks down, or you are in an accident, it may be some time before help arrives, and you need a way to stay warm in the meantime.

Also, make sure you carry a charged cell phone if you are traveling, and let someone know when you are expected to arrive.

To keep track of the current temperatures and wind chills, and see the detailed and only 10-day forecast for Madison, stay tuned to WISC-TV3,, and the First Alert Weather & Traffic app.

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