MONROE — With cold temperatures never before seen by most
area residents set to descend upon the area through Thursday, officials are
urging everyone to stay indoors if possible.
Director of Green County Emergency Management Tanna McKeon said Tuesday that so far, “it’s been quiet” and it seems people are listening to the warnings.
“We encourage everybody to just stay inside,” McKeon said. “The weather that’s coming is going to be deadly.”
A wind chill advisory was issued by the National Weather Service Milwaukee/Sullivan for southern Wisconsin just before 2:30 p.m. Tuesday. The hazardous weather outlook includes Green, Lafayette and Rock County in addition to others throughout portions of central Wisconsin and the lower half of the state.
Beginning Tuesday night, wind chills of 35 to 55 degrees below zero will cover the area. The NWS stated in its outlook that “this stretch of cold weather will be historic.” The wind chill warning was set to take effect beginning at 6 p.m. and will continue into Thursday. The advisory informs all residents to avoid going outside for any length of time and that frostbite can occur in as little as five minutes as a result of the impending temperatures.
McKeon said the numbers they anticipate will be ones that someone may see only once in a lifetime.
Rick Gleason, director of the city Men’s Resource Center and executive director of Family Promise of Green County, said he was “disappointed” Green County did not have a plan in place for individuals who may live out of their car or may not have any reprieve from the dangerous temperatures. Both the center and Family Promise are nonprofit organizations focused on helping individuals who may have, or are in danger of, losing their home. Gleason said he informed local law enforcement the center would have two overnight-only beds as a “last resort,” but that the facility is not meant to be open during the day and it isn’t feasible to change the schedule.
He acknowledged that in a smaller city like Monroe and the more rural Green County, providing spaces for homeless individuals does not get much consideration.
“It doesn’t seem to be the priority it should be,” Gleason said, adding that he may just organize warming spaces himself next year rather than depend on the county.
Green County Sheriff Jeff Skatrud, released a statement Monday alongside McKeon and RoAnn Warden, Green County Public Health director, indicating individuals check on neighbors, friends and the elderly. For those who do not have a warm place to stay during the cold, they wrote that finding an alternative with family or locating lodging should be a priority. For those who can’t, “municipal buildings, such as libraries and administration offices may be available during working hours.”
However, a number of public spaces have announced closure for Wednesday in light of the dangerous temperatures. City Administrator Phil Rath announced through an email just before 3 p.m. that Monroe City Hall will be closed Wednesday “in the interest of public safety” in light of the weather forecast. Pelliteri Waste Systems, which is contracted by the city for garbage removal, cancelled its services for both Wednesday and Thursday. They will not be rescheduled, according to the announcement posted on the city Facebook page at 1 p.m. Tuesday. The Green County Landfill will be closed on both Wednesday and Thursday, though the county courthouse will be open. Monroe Cab Co. announced that “out of concern for public safety,” it will not be offering routine trips until noon Thursday. Monroe Public Library will also be closed.
Monroe Police Chief Fred Kelley said the county decided against organizing warming centers because there has not been use of them in the past. He did note that the department will be open. For those in emergency situations, Kelley said chips from the Salvation Army can be given out to someone in need for a one-night stay at a local hotel. He added that through permission from the Green County Human Services Department, the police department can give out portable heaters for those who have a furnace malfunction.
The cold weather had already caused an issue for city workers Tuesday. Utilities Supervisor Mike Kennison said a water main in the 1500 block of 28th Avenue was reported around 11:30 a.m. Director of Public Works Al Gerber said “a good amount of water” was coming up through the curb. The main was the supplier for residences in the area. Water was shut down around the noon hour. Kennison said the city was waiting for the Diggers Hotline workers to arrive from the Janesville area to advise where workers could dig. He said depending on the depth of the frost, the work could be concluded by mid-afternoon. Gerber noted that winter temperatures cause an average of 2 to 3 breaks each year, but could be as many as 12 total depending on the season.
Businesses have also felt the strain of the frigid temperatures. Louis Armstrong of Minhas Craft Brewery said the company had not shut down operations due to advisement from a gas company, though it had conducted such practices in the past. He noted that the brewery and distillery will not be conducting tours Wednesday and that the restaurant will be closed. Armstrong said in the name of safety, the brewery offered its employees the opportunity to work Friday instead of Wednesday, but that workers declined.