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‘Winter is here:’ Milwaukee Health Dept. reminds residents to take precautions as temps drop

MILWAUKEE -- Bitter cold temperatures in the forecast have Milwaukee health officials on high alert.

"Winter is here," said Jeanette Kowalik, Commission of Health. "Now we are bracing for some severe cold weather."

Milwaukee Health Department (MHD) officials are reminding all residents to take precautions as single-digit temperatures and below zero wind chills move into the area Thursday night, Jan. 24. The National Weather Service has issued at wind chill advisory for all of southeast Wisconsin from 9 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 24 to noon Friday, Jan. 25.

"Definitely, layer up. Wear multiple layers of clothing. Always wear a hat when outdoors and a scarf," Kowalik said.

But it is not just the health department bracing for the brutal cod.

"If you need 15 minutes, that's fine. If you need to stay for a couple of hours, that space is available to you," said Major Steven Merritt of the Salvation Army.

The Salvation Army is opening its warming shelters. It is a place to not only find relief from the cold, but also for snacks and coffee. CLICK HERE to see a complete list of those available shelters.

"It's going to be critical that people don't stay outside -- you need to be covered up," Merritt said.

Merritt said the cold snap comes as the Salvation Army is trying to fill a major fundraising gap left over from the annual Red Kettle campaign.

"With funding, we are about $300,000 short of our Christmas goal," Merritt said.

Steven Merritt

Coat distribution

Even so, the Salvation Army continues its mission. The timing could not be better for another round of coat distribution.

"We were able to, with FOX6, to be able to do the coats distribution earlier in the season," Merritt said.

On Friday, Jan. 25 from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m., the Salvation Army location on 60th St north of Silver Spring will open to hand out coats to those in need. It is a warm gesture during the coldest of days.

"You can pick out coats for yourself, for your children and we want to find a home for all of them," Merritt said.

Cold weather tips

The City of Milwaukee Health Department encourages community members to take extra precaution when traveling, limit outdoor activity whenever possible, and keep the following tips in mind to stay safe:

  • When heading outdoors, let someone know where you are going and when you expect to return.
  • Prepare a cold weather emergency kit to keep in your car and include: blankets, extra clothing, high energy foods, and first aid.
  • Always wear appropriate clothing and ensure that exposed skin is covered, including fingers, nose, and ears.
  • If idling cars, only do so in well-ventilated, open garages.
  • Heat your home with devices approved for indoor use. Outdoor devices such as wood-burning or coal-burning grills, camp stoves, or other devices should not be used. Never use a stovetop or oven to heat your home.
  • If you have pets, bring them inside and ensure trips outside are brief.

During cold weather, it is also very important to check on family members and neighbors who may be at risk for cold- weather illness or injuries, especially young children, the elderly, and those with chronic illness. More information on cold-weather safety can be found online at milwaukee.gov/ColdWeatherSafety.

Dial 211 for information about places to stay warm, including warming shelter options available.

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