The second cold snap in the Lakeland area has once again resulted in the closing of schools, cancelling of meetings, a run on electric heaters and other cold-related items at area stores, all the while wearing thin residents’ patience and testing the mechanical integrity of all of our vehicles.
This most recent snap, which brought about double-digit temperatures below zero, is supposed to ease over the course of the next few days but hasn’t made life easier, nor less costly.
Coming on the heels of the shortage of propane and the steep rise in the cost of purchasing that heating fuel, a rupture in a natural gas pipeline just south of Winnepeg, Canada, also caused fears that fuel source might be compromised as well.
However, all indications are that is not the case and according to state officials it looks like the flow of natural gas should continue.
However, Mother Nature and Old Man Winter pay no attention and have offered little sympathy.
The bottom fell out of the temperature guage once again the past couple of days as highs in the area struggled to get more than minus-10 degrees on Monday and fell to near minus-20 degrees Monday night and into early Tuesday morning.
Wind chills were the most dangerous, causing school officials to cancel classes across the Lakeland area and much of the state for both Monday and Tuesday.
And because of the cancellation of classes, all school extra-curriculars were also cancelled.
The following is a list of all Lakeland Union High School, Arbor Vitae-Woodruff, and Mercer school meetings that have been postponed as of early Tuesday morning:
• LUHS School Board (postponed until next week Monday, February 3rd at 5:00 in the Library Media Center)
• LUHS Policy Committee Meeting (reschedule date TBD)
• LAC DA-Board (postponed until Thursday, January 30th at 9:30 am in the district office)
• Arbor Vitae-Woodruff School District Buildings and Grounds Committee – meeting originally scheduled for Jan. 28 moved to Jan. 29 at 1 p.m.
• Mercer School District Board of Education – Regular meeting originally scheduled for Jan. 27 moved to Jan. 29
Jan. 27 sports events postponed
• Boys’ freshman B basketball home vs. Chequamegon
• Boys’ freshman/JV basketball home vs. Stevens Point
• Girls’ varsity/freshman/JV basketball at Rhinelander, rescheduled for Monday, Feb. 17, freshman and JV 5:45 p.m., varsity 7:30 p.m.
• Girls’ varsity hockey at Northland Pines, rescheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 11, 7 p.m.
Jan. 28 sports events postponed
• Boy’s varsity/JV/freshman basketball at D.C. Everest, rescheduled for Saturday, Feb. 8, JV and freshman noon, varsity 1:30 p.m.
• Girls’ JV basketball at Stratford
• Boys’ varsity hockey at Rhinelander, rescheduled for Monday, Feb. 3, 5:15 p.m.
Making up missed days
Lakeland Union High School students could see additional instruction time this year because of cold-related closings, but whether and how that would happen is too early to tell, according to District Administrator Todd Kleinhans.
The state Department of Public Instruction requires that a school calendar consist of 180 instructional days and at least 1,137 hours of instructional time for grades seven through 12.
Kleinhans said the district has several days this school year that could be waived because of bad weather and parent-teacher conferences.
In an email to the newspaper, Kleinhans wrote that the school board might look at additional instruction time at a later date, but that he would not recommend such a decision anytime soon. Winter is not yet over, and there could be more school closings, he noted.
“We are always concerned about maximizing student instructional time,” he wrote.
Run on electric heaters
Forget gloves, hats and cold weather clothing, the one item most area stores can’t keep in stock are electric room heaters, according to a quick check of what area merchants have on hand.
“What we’re seeing a run on is electric heaters,” Ray Christenson, assistant manager at Ace Hardware in Woodruff, said.
“The rise in the cost of propane and the short supply is driving people to use the electric heaters to supplement their furnaces.”
The Ace Hardware section that normally contains an assortment of heaters is just bare shelves, a common sight among area merchants. Christenson said they hope to get some in Wednesday, but the high demand for the heaters is making it difficult for the supply chain to keep up.
“The warehouse we order out of is in La Crosse,” Christenson said. “Every single store in northern Wisconsin is trying to order a lot of heaters, and the warehouse can’t keep up with the demand.”
While some of the larger chain stores, such as Wal-Mart have some smaller heaters, the large room-sized heaters are out of stock. It’s a story playing out among all the big retailers, judging by the empty shelves where the heaters normally are stocked.
“It might not be until warm weather sets in before the supply [of heaters] returns to normal,” Christenson said. “Let’s just hope we don’t get a late spring.”
As far as cold-weather gear, Christenson said they should get some more of those on Wednesday, too.
At the Lakeland True Value Lumber and Hardware store in Lake Tomahawk, they have a few of the smaller heaters left in stock, according to manager Dean Guse.
“We’ve sold quite a few,” Guse said. “The biggest we have left is a 1,500-watt one that’s good for a small room.”
Like Christenson, Guse said his supply chain is unable to keep up with the demand for the heaters. Propane heaters and the fuel for them are also in short supply.
“I can’t even get the small bottles in,” Guse said. “I ordered them last week and they didn’t come in.”
For those people who must work outside, Ace has a battery-powered electric jacket, though the cost will set you back $200.
Towing and vehicle services
The cold weather has certainly taken its toll on the motorized vehicles we depend on to get around, with batteries running ahead of collisions for many towing and service companies.
Katy Costa, office manager for Quality Paint and Body of Minocqua said they have seen a jump in weather-related body work.
“It’s a lot more weather-related instead of people hitting deer,” Costa said.
At Dietz’s Service Phillips 66 in Manitowish Waters, most customers are needing new batteries installed.
“Yes, we’re definitely seeing an upturn,” Rosie Mecklenburg, a customer service representative, said. “We’re putting in a lot of new batteries and everyone seems to be getting stuck in snowbanks.”
Annette Sorensen, co-owner of Sorensen’s 24 Hour Towing said they are seeing an increase in battery-relayed issues.
“Most of the locals know what to do to get their car ready for cold weather, even as cold as it’s been lately,” she said. “It’s things like dead batteries and gelling of diesel fuel.”
Kumbier Towing of Minocqua’s Tim Carlson said his company is running so steady he didn’t have time to discuss what they are seeing more of on their calls.
Neither Ministry Howard Young or St. Mary’s were seeing an increase of weather-related injuries or problems as of Monday afternoon.
Flying in the cold
The extreme cold has not negatively impacted flight schedules at the Rhinelander-Oneida County Airport.
In fact, just the opposite.
Airport Director Joe Brauer said the arctic blast actually helps airplanes fly more economically. Fuel efficiency increases with colder, less-humid air, Brauer said.
“The bottom line is that the aircraft does not burn as much fuel,” Brauer said. “The airline receives a better return on the dollar.”
Bill Lauer, owner of Mercer-based Lauer Aviation, said flying during the cold generally means a plane will take off more quickly compared to warmer temperatures. And, he said, planes can land at lower speeds in cold weather.
But Lauer also noted a drawback to flying in the cold that any motorist can relate to: the engine still needs to warm up.
“The other side of the coin is it’s a lot of extra work getting the plane out, preheated, started up,” Lauer said of flying during winter.
Despite the economic advantages of cold temperatures for airlines, Brauer said he was concerned about the length of time employees were working outside. And, he said, some ground equipment such as carts to haul luggage have not been running as well.
“(The cold) does take its task on the equipment and personnel,” Brauer said.
Warming centers open
Emergency management officials from Oneida County
identified the following facilities that
will remain open for people to seek
warmth during the latest deep freeze:
Trig’s Riverwalk Centre Mall
232 S. Courtney St.
2121 Lincoln St.
Minocqua and Woodruff
9750 Highway 70 West
8760 Northridge Way
Howard Young Medical Center
240 Maple St.
The Lakeland Times could not verify as of Monday afternoon whether similar facilities in Vilas County were also deemed warming centers this week.
Warming sites across the state
For a complete list of warming sites across the entire state, visit:
Jonathan Anderson, Jim Oxley, Jamie Taylor, and Ray Rivard all contributed to this report.