Gov. Walker moves to alleviate propane shortage

Wisconsin State Farmer

MADISON – Governor Scott Walker signed an executive order declaring a state of emergency exists in Wisconsin in response to propane shortages and increased wait times to obtain propane.

Jerry Petasek refills his propane delivery truck at the Country Visions Cooperative facility in the town of Lawrence.

These challenges are due, in large part, to the below-normal temperatures experienced across the Midwest and a shortage of drivers. Governor Walker’s order exempts drivers in the process of obtaining or transporting propane from certain federal and state requirements to mitigate the propane supply shortage.

“As Wisconsin faces extreme temperatures, we want to do everything we can to ensure people who rely on propane for heat have access to it,” Governor Walker said. “This executive order is a move to alleviate the propane shortage while ensuring the safety of drivers who are doing the important work of transporting it.”

Governor Walker’s order declares a state of emergency exists in Wisconsin beginning Friday, December 29, 2017, at 12:01 a.m. and expiring on Sunday, January 28, 2018, at 11:59 p.m. It specifically orders the following:

  • Carriers and drivers of commercial motor vehicles while in the process of obtaining and transporting propane are exempted from federal and Wisconsin hours-of-service requirements in Part 395 of Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations and in Chapters Trans 325 and Trans 327 of the Wisconsin Administrative Code. This exemption applies to all highways in Wisconsin, including the national system of interstate and defense highways.
  • No motor carrier operating under the terms of this order shall require or allow an ill or fatigued driver to operate a motor vehicle. A driver who notifies a motor carrier that he or she needs immediate rest shall be given at least ten consecutive hours off­ duty before the driver is required to return to service.
  • Upon request of a driver, a commercial motor carrier operating under this order must give a driver at least thirty-four (34) consecutive hours off when the driver has been on duty for more than seventy (70) hours during any eight consecutive days.
  • Upon the expiration of the state of emergency declared by this order, or when a driver has been relieved of all duty and responsibility to provide direct assistance to the emergency effort, a driver that has had at least thirty-four (34) consecutive hours off-duty shall be permitted to start his or her on-duty status hours and 60/70 hour clock at zero.
Mark Burger of Blackhawk Propane delivers propane to a farm house near Clinton. In 2014, a shortage of propane in the Midwest has caused prices to surge upwards to near $5 a gallon in some markets. The shortage is attributed to an unusually cold winter, increased exports, and a cold wet fall which forced many farmers use propane to fuel dryers for their crops.

Arctic front moving in

After a period of light snow Friday afternoon and evening, another arctic front will arrive bringing bitterly cold temperatures and wind chills for the entire holiday weekend. According to the National Weather Service, the cold air is expected to linger into the New Year.

Low temperatures on Saturday will range from -7 to 1 degrees with wind chills reaching 10 to 30 degrees below zero.

On Sunday, high temperatures will eek out of the subzero basement, ranging from 6 to 13 degrees, before plunging to 2 to -7 degrees. Wind chills will again range between 10 to 30 degrees below zero.

Bitter cold temperatures will usher in the new year on Monday with highs reaching 2 to 7 degrees. Temperatures will again fall to 3 to 11 degrees below zero with wind chills reaching -30.

Normal maximum temperatures are in the upper 20s to around 30 degrees for southern Wisconsin, with minimum temperatures in the middle to upper teens.

The National Weather Service predicts a good chance for below normal temperatures throughout early January for Wisconsin.

Jim Nault and Mike McKenna volunteering as servers Thursday at Salvation Army of Greater Green Bay during the charitable organization's Noon lunch hour. Many of those who visit the lunch hour also utilize the warming center in the organization's chapel.

In from the cold

Warming shelters across Wisconsin are opening their doors during the day through this cold snap.The Salvation Army of Greater Green Bay is combating the week's frigid winter temperatures by inviting those in need to a warm meal and a place to get out of the cold. 

The Salvation Army Green Bay Corps Community Center on the city's west side began opening its chapel as a daytime warming center on Dec. 26, when below zero temperatures first hit the city. 

"Being a resource to the community for those who don't have a place to warm up is big," said Nick Meisner, director of marketing and communication for the Salvation Army of Greater Green Bay. "These temperatures are a serious health hazard. We've all seen the stories about injuries and other health issues when temperatures get this low. If we can be a safe haven for someone to come and stay for a little bit, that's what we want." 

Cold weather safety

Extremely cold air comes every winter and affects millions of people across the United States. The arctic air, together with brisk winds, can lead to dangerously cold wind chill values. People exposed to extreme cold are susceptible to frostbite in a matter of minutes.

Areas most prone to frostbite are uncovered skin and the extremities, such as hands and feet. Hypothermia is another threat during extreme cold. Hypothermia occurs when the body loses heat faster than it can produce.

Plan ahead for the return of bitterly cold temperatures and wind chills by this weekend.