RACINE COUNTY — The polar vortex is mercifully subsiding after a grueling stretch that saw over a foot of snow and record-low temperatures batter the area.
Slowly but surely, things are returning to normal. Municipal buildings began reopening Thursday and Racine Unified and other schools throughout the area will be back in session Friday. And after two days of suspended service, the United States Postal Service will start delivering mail again Friday.
Temperatures are projected to increase steadily through the weekend, according to National Weather Service Meteorologist Rebecca Rogers. Friday will see a low of 4 degrees below zero and a high of 20 degrees, she said. From there, it gets warmer, with Saturday having a low of 15 and a high of 37.
It may even start to feel a little like spring: Sunday’s low is forecast at 34 degrees and the high is 44. Monday’s projected high temperature is 47 degrees with a low of 40, just days after wind chills as harsh as 50 degrees below zero swept through the county.
But the temperature increase does not come without a trade-off. Starting today, light freezing rain is expected on and off through Monday.
Rogers said residents should be cautious of the warm weather melting snow and ice and creating slippery road conditions.
Wednesday’s air temperatures shattered the previous low-temperature records, Rogers said.
The NWS collects climate data in Madison and Milwaukee, and Milwaukee’s Wednesday low of 23 degrees below zero was enough to dethrone 1899’s low temperature of 15 below. Wednesday also set the record for the lowest high temperature of 10 degrees below zero. The previous record was set at 3 below in 1951.
The most brutal wind chill in Racine County was measured at 52 degrees below zero Wednesday in Burlington.
The sensor in the City of Racine malfunctioned for an unknown reason Wednesday and did not collect temperature data. It was so cold that the NWS was not able to get it repaired until Thursday morning, said meteorologist Andy Boxell.
Burlington’s sensor did not collect temperature data Thursday morning, but that sensor has had issues for several years, Boxell said. Air temperature Thursday morning in Racine was as low as 27 degrees below zero, with wind chills as low as 38 below.
Some local AT&T and Spectrum customers experienced outages Wednesday and Thursday. Neither company shared how many customers were affected or for how long when asked.
Kimberly Noetzel, a spokeswoman for Spectrum parent company Charter Communications, wrote in an email that “some customers in parts of Racine County” had outages “due to technical and power-related issues.”
Phil Hayes, an AT&T spokesman, wrote that severe weather and power outages “may be affecting service for some customers.”
Both companies said they were working to restore service to affected customers.
At about 4 a.m. Thursday morning, a downed power line resulted in an outage for almost 1,100 We Energies customers in far southeast Racine and isolated areas in southeast Mount Pleasant and Elmwood Park. The affected area was roughly bordered by Webster Street to the north, Concord Drive to the south, Wheelock Drive to the west and Madison Street to the east.
Service was mostly restored by 8 a.m., according to We Energies spokeswoman Alison Trouy. By 9 a.m., only about 10 customers in the area were still without power.
“We’ve had a few isolated incidents, but overall everything has been reliable,” Trouy said. “Our system is designed to work in this extremely cold weather.”
Several power outages in Kenosha County also left about 4,500 residents temporarily without power on Wednesday. About 3,000 customers in Pleasant Prairie and 1,500 in Somers lost power.
The outage in Somers lasted from about 6:20 a.m. Wednesday to 9 a.m.
Residents OK for the most part
Apart from two isolated incidents on Saturday and Monday that saw two county residents die of weather-related causes, locals have been largely unscathed by the weather.
Despite the dangerous conditions, there has not been a huge number of emergency calls or hospital visits due to frostbite, hypothermia or other cold weather-related ailments.
Cheri Mantz, a spokeswoman for Aurora Health Care, said the county’s Aurora locations have seen “probably less than five” patients at urgent care centers for weather-related issues, and the emergency department at Aurora Medical Center in Burlington had no patients come in for weather-related issues.
Since Monday, Ascension All Saints’ Emergency Department has seen 15 patients with breathing problems exacerbated by the cold weather and two patients with hypothermia and cold exposure, according to an Ascension spokesperson. Another 15 patients came in with chest pain, but it is unclear how many of those issues were weather-related.
Several area fire departments also reported that there have not been any noteworthy weather-related rescue calls.