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For some, there's no escaping bitter cold
Times photo: Tere Dunlap Northside Elementary School students endure blowing snow and subzero wind chills as they walk to school Wednesday in Monroe. They are among the many people who are braving record low temperatures and high winds this week. But today, Monroe students and all others in the region got a reprieve, as all area schools were canceled.
MONROE - The brutal wind chills this week are proving to be a challenge for people who have to work outside.

The sub-zero temperatures come as Wisconsin observes Adult School Crossing Guard Recognition Week, Jan. 12-16.

Crossing guards Tom Maurer and Laura Pautsch bundled up in coats, snow boots, hats, mittens and mufflers Wednesday, venturing out into the blowing snow and to help school children cross the street safely at Northside Elementary School in Monroe.

"It's a very sweet job. This is just one of the bad days," Maurer said from behind his full-face stocking cap.

He was stomping down the snow piled in front of the sidewalk by 7:45 a.m. on the corner of 30th Street across the street from the school. Maurer works full-time at the school, but twice a day he spends about a half-hour as a crossing guard.

"It makes me appreciate people who spend big chunks of their day outside," he said.

Maurer said he was not looking ahead to the rest of the week. But today, he and other Monroe school district employees didn't have to work - as Monroe schools and all others in the area were closed because of the wind chills that reached 35 to 45 degrees below zero this morning. The actual temperature at 5 a.m. was 20 degrees below zero.

The conditions will result in frostbite, in as little as 10 minutes, and could lead to hypothermia or death without taking proper precautions.

If you must go outside, the National Weather Service advises wearing several layers of clothes and covering all exposed skin, and immediately changing out of wet clothes and into dry ones.

The National Weather Service is predicting more of the same for Thursday night into Friday morning, with a wind chill warning in effect until noon Friday. Tonight's low is expected to drop lower than 20 below zero - the coldest temperatures southern Wisconsin has seen in 13 years. The wind chills, again, are expected to reach as low as 45 below zero.

It wasn't that cold Wednesday, but the chill still was blistering. Yet Maurer warmly greeted the children as they braved the cold walk to the school grounds.

"Like my new coat?" one boy asked him.

"Oh, yes. I love it," he answered.

"This is one job you can never, ever be grumpy," said Maurer, now in his third year as a crossing guard.

Being cheerful begins on the first day of school, he said, especially toward kindergartners.

"You're the first happy guy they meet," he said.

Maurer said some children like to walk along the tops of snow piles, instead of the cleared sidewalks.

"They try to get some play in before school," he laughed.

"I have my regulars, and I have my stragglers," he said. He keeps track of both.

But on Wednesday, not many lingered to test the newly-coated snow piles.

At the other corner, on 31st Street, Laura Pautsch stopped vehicles dropping off students at the curb, to allow children on foot to cross first.

"It's interesting working in this kind of weather," she said. A knit scarf wrapped around her neck covered her mouth and allowed only her eyes to peer out.

Pautsch, owner of Laura Lea's salon, said she works around the morning and afternoons schedule as a crossing guard to be with the kids.

"I love being around kids," she said.

Her first year as a crossing guard, Pautsch has served as a volunteer at the school since her daughter, Stephanie, now in the second grade, started school. This year, Pautsch also is the second grade coordinator and an outdoor recess supervisor.

Cory Hirsbrunner, principal of Northside and the Monroe Virtual schools, recently learned the Monroe Morning Optimist Club donated lighted stop signs and reflective vests for the crossing guards at all four Monroe elementary schools.

"We have a dozen of each," she said. "I'm sure it was in recognition of the school crossing guard recognition week."