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Another cold snap brings sub-zero temperatures to Wisconsin on Tuesday and Wednesday

For the second time in a week, temperatures across the state expected to dip well below zero

Steam rises from Lake Michigan during a cold winter day
Steam rises from Lake Michigan on Friday morning, Jan. 25, 2019, in Milwaukee. An arctic wave has wrapped parts of the Midwest in numbing cold, sending temperatures plunging and prompting officials to close dozens of schools Friday, but forecasters say the worst may be yet to come. Carrie Antlfinger/AP Photo

Wisconsin residents are once again bracing for bitter cold weather Tuesday and Wednesday, less than a week after the previous cold spell.

Cold arctic air funneled into Wisconsin from the northwest Monday, and it will continue through Tuesday and Wednesday, said Taylor Patterson, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Milwaukee.

Patterson said to expect single-digit temperatures Tuesday during the morning and afternoon, followed by sub-zero temperatures Tuesday evening into Wednesday. She said Eastern Wisconsin will see negative single digits, while the western part of the state could see the temperature drop to 15 or 20 below zero.

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“But that’s just part of the story,” Patterson said.

She added that northwest winds will be moving in behind the front at 10 to 15 miles per hour, bringing the windchill values down to 20 or 25 below zero for much of the state Tuesday. The northwestern corner of the state could see windchills as low as 30 to 40 below zero.

The National Weather Service has issued wind chill advisories for much of the state through noon Tuesday and extending into Wednesday for parts of Western Wisconsin.

“Make sure you really bundle up and wear extra layers if you have to go outside,” Patterson said.

It’s a good idea to check on neighbors and make sure kids and pets are not outside all day, she added.

These low temperatures can also cause problems for vehicle owners, Daniel Hase, manager at Interstate Automotive in Eau Claire, said.

“We get a lot of vehicles towed in when it’s, you know, 20 below zero with batteries and alternators and starters (that don’t work) and overheats,” Hase said.

Surprisingly, overheating is one of the most common winter car problems. The culprit is usually improper coolant that freezes and plugs up your engine, causing the car to overheat. But there are things you can do to keep your car running smoothly in the cold Wisconsin winters.

“The first thing we recommend is preventative maintenance. You know, having all your fluids full and making sure that they’re rated to the proper temperature,” Hase said. He recommends using coolant rated for 20 to 30 below zero.

Vehicle owners should also check to make sure their batteries are in good condition. Hase said the typical life expectancy for a car battery in Wisconsin is only four to six years, so even if your car feels relatively new, it could still be time to replace the battery.

Other things to keep an eye on are tire pressure, which decreases in cold weather, and your gas level.

“We recommend having over a quarter tank of gas at all times, just in case you happen to have any moisture in your fuel tank that way you don’t have to worry about it freezing,” Hase said.

And Hase said letting your car warm up before driving can be a critical part of proper vehicle maintenance.

“If you just hop in a car that’s, you know, 20 below zero and set the cruise at 65 or 70 miles an hour, that’s kind of hard on them, so we do recommend warming them up a little bit,” Hase said.

While the synthetic oils most cars use now are less susceptible to freezing, Hase said even a few minutes of running your engine and heater before driving allows the fluids and electrical system in your car to warm up and run better.

But even with the best car care, breakdowns will still happen. Hase recommends carrying a cold-weather emergency kit with a blanket, fully charged cell phone and reflective triangles. Cat litter or Floor-Dry can also be useful for getting traction if you find yourself stuck in the ditch or on a patch of ice.

Despite the potential consequences of such extreme cold, Patterson said these temperatures are not unusual for this time of year. And there is one silver lining in the chilly forecast.

“Other than the cold, we’re gonna be just pretty clear skies and dry,” Patterson said.

At least you won’t have to worry about shoveling snow in the cold.