Without a permanent warming or homeless shelter in Sauk County, area officials and residents scrambled over the weekend to arrange a temporary shelter to offer reprieve from the possibly record-setting cold temperatures that are forecast for this week.
A Facebook post by Baraboo teacher Jori Ruff on Sunday afternoon announced a “group of concerned citizens” found a location to house anyone in need at the First Presbyterian Church, 416 Ash St., Baraboo, which will open this morning and be available through Saturday.
Ruff’s post asks for volunteers to staff the shelter, as well as donations such as food.
Sauk County Emergency Management Director Jeff Jelinek said his department was working with the Baraboo Area Homeless Shelter board to arrange the emergency shelter ahead of dangerous temperatures predicted for this week.
According to the National Weather Service, a cold front will set in tonight and bring wind chills of 35 degrees below zero and colder from Tuesday through Friday. Temperatures across the Upper Great Lakes, Upper Mississippi Valley and Ohio Valley are expected to be 10-25 degrees below normal.
In the Baraboo area, Tuesday will bring a high of minus 3 degrees and a low of minus 25, according to the NWS. Wednesday’s high is expected to be minus 14.
All of Baraboo’s city government offices will be closed today due to a forecasted winter storm that is expected to drop 7-11 inches of snow.
The Baraboo School District announced on Twitter and its website Sunday evening that schools will be closed today and there will be no after-school activities.
Organizers already have cots, pillows, blankets and volunteers for the temporary homeless shelter, according to Jelinek. He said he doesn’t know how many people may need to use it.
Jelinek recommended anyone who needs assistance to call United Way of Dane County at 211.
The Baraboo Area Homeless Shelter organization is planning to open a new year-round shelter possibly by this spring.
During a time of such cold, Jelinek said people should check on their neighbors and elderly friends and family, especially those with respiratory issues.
“You don’t want them outside, especially starting Tuesday,” Jelinek said. “I mean, that’s gonna be unbelievable. That’s gonna be like the coldest that we’ve seen in 20 years.”
Other safety measures he recommends are to tell someone where you’re going if you’re driving somewhere, and to stay in your vehicle if you get stranded. Pets also should not be left outdoors for extended periods.
“It might be chilly inside (the car), but it’s definitely going to be colder outside,” he said.
The Wisconsin Department of Health Services suggests residents prepare an emergency kit for their car including blankets, snacks, water, a shovel, jumper cables and sand.