LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - It's the almost the end of November, and meteorological Winter is upon us.

So far, Arkansas has had some very chilling days.

This guide includes weather terminology, what certain watches/warnings mean, how to prepare your homes and cars, and so much more.

School closings:

Parents - You can download the THV11 mobile app and check for school closings. If there are any active, a CLOSINGS tab will be the first tile when you launch the app.

School Administrators - If you are trying to close/delay your school due to the weather, please follow the admin tool, using your school ID and password. If you are unaware of your ID and password please contact THV11.

Freezing rain, sleet, and snow:

Have you ever felt confused about the difference between freezing rain, sleet, and snow? Don't worry, we're here to help.

Freezing rain - Rain that freezes on contact once it reaches the surface and coats everything in a glaze of ice. Trees, branches, and power lines can be weighed down and snap when the ice becomes too heavy. Also, freezing rain can make walking and driving dangerous since there is no traction on concrete.

Sleet - Ice pellets that bounce off the ground or objects when it hits them.

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How does it form?

The type of precipitation is determined by the temperature profile of the atmosphere. Looking at the graphic above, notice the wedge of warm air (in the red) changes the type of precipitation.

Snow- If the temperature is below 32° in the clouds and all the way to the surface the precipitation will fall in the form of snow.

Sleet- If there is a layer of warm air between the surface and the cloud the precipitation will go from snow, melt into rain as it passes through the layer above freezing. Then once the raindrop enters the subfreezing air, the drop will refreeze into an ice pellet.

Freezing Rain- Is similar to the formation of sleet except for the layer of freezing air is right at the surface. So the precipitation falls in the form of rain but freezes on contact producing a glaze of ice.

What is the wind chill or real feel temperature?

When the temperature is below 50° and the winds increase the layer of warm air above your skin can be taken away. This causes your skin to feel colder than the actual air temperature making a new value called the wind chill or real feel.

The colder the temperatures and stronger the wind will lead to a lower wind chill or real feel reading.

Extreme wind chills can cause frostbite or hypothermia if a person is not dressed appropriately for these conditions.

Explaining different Watches/Warnings:

Winter Storm Watch - Issued when there is the possibility of occurrence of the following weather elements, either separately or in combination:

  • Snow accumulations of 4 inches or more in 12 hours or less; or 6 inches or more in 24 hours or less. (Can be issued for lesser amounts, such as 2 to 4 inches, if the forecaster feels there could be significant travel hazards as a result, or for an early season event).

  • Freezing rain or freezing drizzle accumulations of 1/4 inch or more.

    Sleet accumulations of 1/2 inch or more.

Winter Storm Warning- Issued when there is hazardous winter weather occurring, imminent, or has a high probability of occurrence. Winter storm warnings are issued for the following conditions, whether they occur separately or in combination:

Snow accumulations of 4 inches or more in 12 hours or less; or 6 inches or more in 24 hours or less. (Can be issued for lesser amounts, such as 2 to 4 inches, if the forecaster feels there could be significant travel hazards as a result or for an early season event).

Sleet accumulations of 1/2 inch or more.

Freezing rain or freezing drizzle accumulations of 1/4 inch or more. (If freezing rain or freezing drizzle is not in combination with sleet and/or snow, then an Ice Storm Warning may be issued instead)

Wind Chill Advisory- Issued when wind chill values will reach 0°F to -15°F, with average wind speeds around 10 mph or stronger. These conditions are expected to persist for 3 hours or longer.

Wind Chill Watch- Issued when wind chill temperatures are expected to be -15°F or colder, with an average wind around 10 mph or greater. These conditions are expected to persist for approximately 1 hour or longer.

Wind Chill Warning- Issued when wind chill temperatures are expected to be -15°F or colder, with an average wind around 10 mph or greater. These conditions are expected to persist for approximately 1 hour or longer.

Winter Weather Advisory- Issued when the following conditions are expected, whether they occur separately or in combination:

  • Snow accumulations of 1 to 3 inches. An advisory may be issued for 1 inch less if the time of year or special circumstances exist where extra caution is warranted by the forecaster (such as light snow falling on very cold roads and freezing on contact, causing significant travel hazards)

  • Sleet accumulations of less than 1/2 inch.

    Freezing rain or freezing drizzle accumulations of less than 1/4 inch.

Ice Storm Warning- Issued when significant or possibly damaging accumulations of freezing rain and/or freezing drizzle are expected. This usually equates to accumulations of 1/4 inch or more of ice.

Blizzard Warning- Issued for sustained wind or frequent gusts of 35 mph or stronger, accompanied with considerable falling and/or blowing snow, frequently reducing visibility to less than 1/4 mile, and for three hours or longer.

Freezing Fog- Issued when very light ice accumulations are expected from drizzle or mist falling into the air that is at or below 32°, causing hazardous driving conditions.

Black Ice- Is a thin coat of clear ice that can be mistaken for a puddle or wet roads. This condition occurs when snow or sleet melt on the road surface and then refreeze as the temperature drops. Roads, especially on bridges and overpasses, can become very slick and dangerous without warning.

Flash Freeze- Occurs when snow, sleet, or liquid rapidly changes to solid ice due to the rapid drop in temperatures. This can cause havoc with road conditions and traffic. This can also freeze car doors.

Frostbite and Hypothermia:

Frostbite- Frostbite happens when the body's survival mechanisms kick in during extremely cold weather. To protect the vital inner organs, the body cuts circulation to your extremities: feet, hands, nose, etc., which eventually freeze.

To avoid frostbite, stay inside during severe cold, especially when the wind chill is -50°F or below. If you must go out, try to cover every part of your body: ears, nose, toes and fingers, etc. Mittens are better than gloves. Keep your skin dry. Stay out of the wind when possible. Drink plenty of fluids since hydration increases the blood's volume, which helps prevent frostbite. Avoid caffeine, alcohol and cigarette.

Caffeine constricts blood vessels, preventing warming of your extremities. Alcohol reduces shivering, which helps keep you warm. Cigarettes shut off the blood flow to your hands.

Below are indicators of frostbite:

  • First degree: Ice crystals are forming on your skin.
  • Second degree: Skin begins to feel warm even though it is not yet defrosted.
  • Third degree: Skin turns red, pale or white.
  • Fourth degree: Pain lasts for more than a few hours and skin may develop dark blue or black. See a doctor immediately if these symptoms arise. Gangrene is a real threat.

How to treat Frostbite: Get indoors as quickly as possible. Until you can get indoors:

  • Don't rub or massage cold body parts.
  • Put your hands in your armpits.
  • Hold onto another person or animal.
  • Drink warm liquids.
  • Put on extra layers of clothes, blankets, etc.
  • Remove rings, watches and anything other tight jewelry or related items.

Once indoors:

  • Don't walk on a frostbitten foot. You could cause more damage.
  • Get in a warm, NOT hot, bath and wrap your face and ears in a moist, warm, NOT hot, towel.
  • Don't get near a hot stove or heater or use a heating pad, hot water bottle, or a hair dryer. You may burn yourself before feeling returns.
  • Frostbitten skin will become red and swollen and feel like it's on fire. You may develop blisters. Don't break the blisters. It could cause scarring and infection.
  • If your skin turns blue or gray, is very swollen, blistered or feels hard and numb even under the surface, go to a hospital as soon as possible.

Hypothermia- When your body temperature sinks below 96°F, you have hypothermia, a serious health hazard that occurs when body temperature is lowered too much. Get medical attention immediately. Move the victim inside to a heated location and begin warming the center of the body first. If the person is unconscious, administer CPR.

Hypothermia can occur in temperatures as warm as 60°F, particularly in water or with if you are outside a long time and not dressed for the weather. Of the approximately 1,300 people the CDCP lists as being killed by hypothermia each year, most are seniors, according to the National Institute of Aging, but some are children and young adults.

Everyone needs to be careful. Some medicines, problems with circulation, and certain illnesses may reduce your ability to resist hypothermia. As you age, your body becomes less efficient at letting you know when you are too cold. In addition, older people tend not to shiver effectively, one of the ways the body warms itself up.

Remember these tips to help prevent hypothermia:

  • Dress in layers
  • Wrap up well when going outside in the cold.
  • Avoid breezes and drafts indoors.
  • Eat nutritious food and wear warm clothes to ward off winter chill.
  • Wear a warm hat in the winter.
  • Eat hot foods and drink warm drinks several times during the day.
  • If you live alone, ask a family member of neighbor to check on you daily or have a camera installed that a family member can view on their computer.
  • Ask your doctor if any medicine you're taking increases your risk of hypothermia. Drugs that may cause a problem include barbiturates, benzodiazepines, chlorpromazine, reserpine, and tricyclic antidepressants.

If your temperature is 96°F or less, you feel cold and sluggish or are having trouble thinking clearly, see your doctor immediately or go to the nearest emergency room. It's better to be overly cautious than to die of a disorder that doesn't have to be deadly.

If you are trying to help someone who may have hypothermia, first call an ambulance. Then lie close to the person and cover both of you with thick blankets. The hotter you get, the more warmth you can give the other person. Don't rub the person or handle him or her roughly.

Severe Weather Terms:

Severe Thunderstorm - A severe thunderstorm is storm that produces winds of 58 mph or greater, and/or 1-inch diameter hail and/or a tornado. (The amount of lightning that a storm produces does not make it severe.)

Severe Thunderstorm Watch -A means that severe thunderstorms with damaging winds, large hail and a/or a tornado are possible for counties in and close to the watch area.

Severe Thunderstorm Warning - A severe thunderstorm warning means a storm has become or expected to reach severe limits.

Tornado Watch - A tornado watch is when any storms inside or near the counties under the watch could see storms that produce tornadoes.

Particularly Dangerous Situation Tornado Watch - This is a rare tornado watch issued only when there is high confidence that storms in this tornado watch will not only produce tornadoes, but the tornadoes could be strong and long-lived. Be prepared for rapidly changing conditions and take shelter when needed.

Tornado Warning - A warning means that a tornado has been spotted by an observer or rotation has been detected by radar and a funnel may be forming or a tornado has been detected picking up debris.

If you are under a tornado warning now is the time to take your tornado precautions

How to prepare for a Winter Storm:

[The 4 P's - People, Pets, Pipes, Property]

Dressing for Cold Weather- Before you go outdoors make sure you dress in layers, warm shoes, and a coat to keep out any wind, snow, sleet or rain. When temperatures are in the 30's a hat or gloves, mittens may be needed. In extreme cold it becomes necessary to wear a hat, gloves or mittens and a face mask to prevent frostbite or hypothermia.

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www.weather.gov

Protecting people:

  • Talk with your family about what to do if a winter storm watch or warning is issued. Discussing winter storms ahead of time helps reduce fear, particularly for young children.
  • Have your vehicle winterized before the winter storm season to decrease your chance of being stranded in cold weather.
  • Have a mechanic check your battery, antifreeze, wipers and windshield washer fluid, ignition system, thermostat, lights, flashing hazard lights, exhaust system, heater, brakes, defroster, and oil.
  • Install good winter tires with adequate tread. All-weather radials are usually adequate but some jurisdictions require vehicles to be equipped with chains or snow tires with studs.
  • Keep in your vehicle: - A windshield scraper and small broom - A small sack of sand for generating traction under wheels and a set of tire chains or traction mats - Matches in a waterproof container - A brightly colored (preferably red) cloth to tie to the antenna - An emergency supply kit, including warm clothing.
  • Keep your vehicle’s gas tank full so you can leave right away in an emergency and to keep the fuel line from freezing.
  • Keep a supply of non-clumping kitty litter to make walkways and steps less slippery.
  • Service snow removal equipment before the winter storm season and maintain it in good working order.
  • Keep handy a warm coat, gloves or mittens, hat, water-resistant boots, and extra blankets and warm clothing for each member of the household.

Protecting your pets:

  • Bring them inside- All pets should be brought inside when the temperature drops below freezing. Even though the fur helps protect them, cats and dogs can still get frostbite or hypothermia.

  • If They Must be Outside- Provide them with a warm, solid shelter against wind. Make sure that they have unlimited access to fresh, non-frozen water (by changing the water frequently or using a pet-safe, heated water bowl). The floor of the shelter should be off the ground (to minimize heat loss into the ground) and the bedding should be thick, dry and changed regularly to provide a warm, dry environment. The door to the shelter should be positioned away from prevailing winds. Space heaters and heat lamps should be avoided because of the risk of burns or fire. Heated pet mats should also be used with caution because they are still capable of causing burns.

    Walking- After walking make sure you clean your pet’s paws, legs and belly because toxic chemicals from salt, deicer, or antifreeze may have been picked up. Consider using pet-safe products to reduce the chance of exposing your pet to these dangers.

    Keeping them Warm- For dogs with short hair consider placing a sweater or dog coat before you go outside.

    Pet Proof Your Home- Make sure space heaters are safely away from pets to prevent burns or being knocked over which could start a fire.

    Stay Off the Ice- When walking your dog avoid frozen ponds, lakes, and other water hazards the ice may break and put your life and your pet’s in jeopardy.

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Protecting your pipes:

Why Pipe Freezing is a Problem? Water has a unique property in that it expands as it freezes. This expansion puts tremendous pressure on whatever is containing it, including metal or plastic pipes. No matter the strength of a container, expanding water can cause pipes to break.

Pipes that freeze most frequently are:

  • Pipes that are exposed to severe cold, like outdoor hose bibs, swimming pool supply lines, and water sprinkler lines.

  • Water supply pipes in unheated interior areas like basements and crawl spaces, attics, garages, or kitchen cabinets.

    Pipes that run against exterior walls that have little or no insulation.

How to Protect Pipes From Freezing:

Before the onset of cold weather, protect your pipes from freezing by following these recommendations:

  • Drain water from the swimming pool and water sprinkler supply lines following manufacturer's or installer's directions. Do not put antifreeze in these lines unless directed. Antifreeze is environmentally harmful and is dangerous to humans, pets, wildlife, and landscaping.

  • Remove, drain, and store hoses used outdoors. Close inside valves supplying outdoor hose bibs. Open the outside hose bibs to allow water to drain. Keep the outside valve open so that any water remaining in the pipe can expand without causing the pipe to break.

    Add insulation to attics, basements and crawl spaces. Insulation will maintain higher temperatures in these areas.

    Check around the home for other areas where water supply lines are located in unheated areas. Look in the garage, and under kitchen and bathroom cabinets. Both hot and cold water pipes in these areas should be insulated.

    Consider installing specific products made to insulate water pipes like a "pipe sleeve" or installing UL-listed "heat tape," "heat cable," or similar materials on exposed water pipes. Newspaper can provide some degree of insulation and protection to exposed pipes – even ¼” of newspaper can provide significant protection in areas that usually do not have frequent or prolonged temperatures below freezing.

Consider relocating exposed pipes to provide increased protection from freezing.

How to Prevent Frozen Pipes:

Keep garage doors closed if there are water supply lines in the garage.

Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing. Be sure to move any harmful cleaners and household chemicals up out of the reach of children.

When the weather is very cold outside, let the cold water drip from the faucet served by exposed pipes. Running water through the pipe - even at a trickle - helps prevent pipes from freezing.

Keep the thermostat set to the same temperature both during the day and at night. By temporarily suspending the use of lower nighttime temperatures, you may incur a higher heating bill, but you can prevent a much more costly repair job if pipes freeze and burst.

If you will be going away during cold weather, leave the heat on in your home, set to a temperature no lower than 55° F.

How to Thaw Frozen Pipes:

If you turn on a faucet and only a trickle comes out, suspect a frozen pipe. Likely places for frozen pipes include against exterior walls or where your water service enters your home through the foundation.

Keep the faucet open. As you treat the frozen pipe and the frozen area begins to melt, water will begin to flow through the frozen area. Running water through the pipe will help melt ice in the pipe.

Apply heat to the section of pipe using an electric heating pad wrapped around the pipe, an electric hair dryer, a portable space heater (kept away from flammable materials), or by wrapping pipes with towels soaked in hot water. Do not use a blowtorch, kerosene or propane heater, charcoal stove, or other open flame devices.

Apply heat until full water pressure is restored. If you are unable to locate the frozen area, if the frozen area is not accessible, or if you can not thaw the pipe, call a licensed plumber.

Check all other faucets in your home to find out if you have additional frozen pipes. If one pipe freezes, others may freeze, too.

Protecting your Property:

To keep heat in your home and reduce energy costs during the winter months you need to ensure that heat does not have any easy ways of escaping.

Home improvement stores recommend caulking around windows and door trim sealing any cracks.

Identify and seal any areas with weatherstripping or under doors use a seal to prevent cold air from entering the home.

Shrink wrapping windows is a great way from preventing any drafts coming from the windows and stealing your heat.

Clean out your gutters, as the leaves pile up in your gutters through the season the freeze and thaw could make your gutters push away from the home.

Severe Weather Safety:

Before the Storm

  • Know Your Geo: Look at the map below. Now can you find where you live on the map?
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  • Can you identify the counties on the map that surround your county.? If not now is the time to study up. When severe weather strikes you need to know if the storm is moving towards or away from you by looking at a radar map that may or may not have labels.
  • Be Weather-Ready: Check the forecast regularly to see if you're at risk for severe weather. Listen to local news or a NOAA Weather Radio to stay informed about severe thunderstorm watches and warnings. Check the Weather-Ready Nation for tips.
  • Sign Up for Notifications: Know how your community sends warning. Some communities have outdoor sirens. Others depend on media and smart phones to alert residents to severe storms.
  • Create a Communications Plan: Have a family plan that includes an emergency meeting place and related information. Pick a safe room in your home such as a basement, storm cellar or an interior room on the lowest floor with no windows.
  • Practice Your Plan: Conduct a family severe thunderstorm drill regularly so everyone knows what to do if a damaging wind or large hail is approaching. Make sure all members of your family know where to go when severe thunderstorm warnings are issued. Don't forget pets if time allows.
  • Prepare Your Home: Keep trees and branches trimmed near your house. If you have time before severe weather hits, secure loose objects, close windows and doors, and move any valuable objects inside or under a sturdy structure.
  • Help Your Neighbor: Encourage your loved ones to prepare for severe thunderstorms. Take CPR training so you can help if someone is hurt during severe weather.

During the Storm

Severe Thunderstorm Warning:

  • Stay Weather Ready: Continue to listen to THV11 or a NOAA Weather Radio to stay updated about severe thunderstorm watches and warnings.
  • At Your House: Go to your secure location if you hear a severe thunderstorm warning. Damaging wind or large hail may be approaching. Take your pets with you if time allows.
  • At Your Workplace or School: Stay away from windows if you are in a severe thunderstorm warning and damaging wind or large hail is approaching. Do not go to large open rooms such as cafeterias, gymnasiums or auditoriums.
  • Outside: Go inside a sturdy building immediately if severe thunderstorms are approaching. Sheds and storage facilities are not safe. Taking shelter under a tree can be deadly. The tree may fall on you. Standing under a tree also put you at a greater risk of getting struck by lightning.
  • In a Vehicle: Being in a vehicle during severe thunderstorms is safer than being outside; however, drive to closest secure shelter if there is sufficient time.

Tornado Warning

  • Stay Weather-Ready: Continue to listen to THV11 or a NOAA Weather Radio to stay updated about tornado watches and warnings.
  • At Your House: If you are in a tornado warning, go to your basement, safe room, or an interior room, like a bathroom or closet, away from windows. Make sure the building is sturdy and has a solid foundation anchored to the ground. If in a mobile home abandon it and find a safer building. Don't forget pets if time allows.
  • Protect yourself: Cover your head with a mattress, football helmet, bicycle helmet or even a pot. Put shoes on because debris could puncture your foot.
  • At Your Workplace or School: Follow your tornado drill and proceed to your tornado shelter location quickly and calmly. Stay away from windows and do not go to large open rooms such as cafeterias, gymnasiums, or auditoriums.
  • Outside: Seek shelter inside a sturdy building immediately if a tornado is approaching. Sheds and storage facilities are not safe.
  • In a vehicle: Being in a vehicle during a tornado is not safe. The best course of action is to drive to the closest shelter. If you are unable to make it to a safe shelter, either get down in your car and cover your head, or abandon your car and seek shelter in a low lying area such as a ditch or ravine.

After the Storm

  • Stay Informed: Continue to listen to THV11 or a NOAA Weather Radio to stay updated about tornado watches and warnings. Multiple rounds of thunderstorms capable of producing tornadoes are possible during severe weather outbreaks.
  • Contact Your Family and Loved Ones: Let your family and close friends know that you're okay so they can help spread the word. Text messages or social media are more reliable forms of communication than phone calls.
  • Assess the Damage: After the threat for tornadoes has ended, check to see if your property has been damaged. When walking through storm damage, wear long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, and sturdy shoes. Contact local authorities if you see power lines down. Stay out of damaged buildings. Be aware of insurance scammers if your property has been damaged.
  • Help Your Neighbor: If you come across people that are injured and you are properly trained, provide first aid to victims if needed until emergency response teams arrive.

Heater Safety:

Heating equipment is a leading cause of home fire deaths. Half of home heating equipment fires are reported during the months of December, January, and February.

Some simple steps can prevent most heating-related fires from happening:

  • Keep anything that can burn at least three feet away from heating equipment, like the furnace, fireplace, wood stove, or portable space heater.
  • Have a three-foot “kid-free zone” around open fires and space heaters.
  • Never use your oven to heat your home.
  • Have a qualified professional install stationary space heating equipment, water heaters or central heating equipment according to the local codes and manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Have heating equipment and chimneys cleaned and inspected every year by a qualified professional.
  • Remember to turn portable heaters off when leaving the room or going to bed.
  • Always use the right kind of fuel, specified by the manufacturer, for fuel-burning space heaters.
  • Don’t plug space heaters in a power strip
  • Make sure the fireplace has a sturdy screen to stop sparks from flying into the room. Ashes should be cool before putting them in a metal container. Keep the container a safe distance away from your home.
  • Test smoke alarms at least once a month.

Power Outages:

Extended power outages may impact the whole community and the economy. A power outage is when the electrical power goes out unexpectedly.

A power outage may:

  • Disrupt communications, water, and transportation.
  • Close retail businesses, grocery stores, gas stations, ATMs, banks, and other services.
  • Cause food spoilage and water contamination.
  • Prevent use of medical devices.

Protect yourself during a power outage:

  • Keep freezers and refrigerators closed.
  • Only use generators outdoors and away from windows.
  • Do not use a gas stove to heat your home.
  • Disconnect appliances and electronics to avoid damage from electrical surges.
  • Have alternate plans for refrigerating medicines or using power-dependent medical devices.
  • If safe, go to an alternate location for heat or cooling.
  • Check on neighbors.

Prepare NOW for a power outage:

  • Take an inventory of the items you need that rely on electricity.
  • Talk to your medical provider about a power outage plan for medical devices powered by electricity and refrigerated medicines. Find out how long medication can be stored at higher temperatures and get specific guidance for any medications that are critical for life.
  • Plan for batteries and other alternatives to meet your needs when the power goes out.
  • Sign up for local alerts and warning systems. Monitor weather reports.
  • Install carbon monoxide detectors with battery backup in central locations on every level of your home.
  • Determine whether your home phone will work in a power outage and how long battery backup will last.
  • Review the supplies that are available in case of a power outage. Have flashlights with extra batteries for every household member. Have enough non-perishable food and water.
  • Use a thermometer in the refrigerator and freezer so that you can know the temperature when the power is restored. Throw out food if the temperature is 40 degrees or higher.
  • Keep mobile phones and other electric equipment charged and gas tanks full.

Survive DURING a power outage:

  • Keep freezers and refrigerators closed. The refrigerator will keep food cold for about four hours. A full freezer will keep the temperature for about 48 hours. Use coolers with ice if necessary. Monitor temperatures with a thermometer.
  • Maintain food supplies that do not require refrigeration.
  • Avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. Generators, camp stoves, or charcoal grills should always be used outdoors and at least 20 feet away from windows. Never use a gas stovetop or oven to heat your home.
  • Check on your neighbors. Older adults and young children are especially vulnerable to extreme temperatures.
  • Go to a community location with power if heat or cold is extreme.
  • Turn off or disconnect appliances, equipment, or electronics. Power may return with momentary “surges” or “spikes” that can cause damage.

Be safe AFTER a power outage:

  • When in doubt, throw it out! Throw away any food that has been exposed to temperatures 40 degrees or higher for two hours or more, or that has an unusual odor, color, or texture.
  • If the power is out for more than a day, discard any medication that should be refrigerated, unless the drug’s label says otherwise. If a life depends on the refrigerated drugs, consult a doctor or pharmacist and use medicine only until a new supply is available.

Carbon Monoxide:

Carbon monoxide, also known as CO, is called the “Invisible Killer” because it's a colorless, odorless, poisonous gas. More than 150 people in the United States die every year from accidental nonfire-related CO poisoning associated with consumer products, including generators.

Other products include faulty, improperly-used or incorrectly-vented fuel-burning appliances such as furnaces, stoves, water heaters, and fireplaces. Source: Consumer Product Safety Commission

  • Install and maintain CO alarms inside your home to provide early warning of CO.
  • Install CO alarms in a central location outside each separate sleeping area and on every level of your home.
  • Test the alarms at least once a month
  • Make sure vents for the dryer, furnace, stove and fireplace are clear of snow and other debris.

Portable generators are useful during winter storms, but if not used safely, they can cause injuries and death.

  • Use portable generators outdoors in well-ventilated areas away from all doors, windows, and vents.
  • Do not use a generator in a wet area. This can cause shock or electrocution.
  • Connect appliances to the generator with heavy-duty extension cords.
  • Do not fuel your generator when it is running. Spilling gas on a hot engine can cause a fire.

Know the symptoms of CO poisoning

Because CO is odorless, colorless, and otherwise undetectable to the human senses, people may not know that they are being exposed. The initial symptoms of low to moderate CO poisoning are similar to the flu (but without the fever). They include:

  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness

High-level CO poisoning results in progressively more severe symptoms, including:

  • Mental confusion
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of muscular coordination
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Ultimately death

Driving Tips:

Before you hit the road make sure your car is healthy and safe:

  • Visit your mechanic for a tune-up and other routine maintenance.
  • Have your vehicle checked thoroughly for leaks, badly worn hoses, or other needed parts, repairs, and replacements.

Check for Recalls:

  • Owners may not always know that their vehicle is under an open recall and needs to be repaired. NHTSA's Recalls Look-up Tool lets you enter a Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) to quickly learn if your vehicle or one you are looking to purchase has a critical safety issue that has not been repaired. Check for recalls on your vehicle by searching now: nhtsa.gov/recalls. If your vehicle is under a recall, get it fixed at your nearest dealer FOR FREE.

Every vehicle handles differently; this is particularly true when driving on wet, icy, or snowy roads. Take time now to learn how your vehicle handles under winter weather driving conditions:

  • Before driving your vehicle, clean snow, ice or dirt from the windows, the forward sensors, headlights, tail lights, backup camera and other sensors around the vehicle.
  • When your area gets snow, practice driving on snow-covered or icy roads—but not on a main road. Sharpen your winter weather driving skills and know how your vehicle handles in snowy conditions by practicing in an empty parking lot. See your vehicle’s manual to familiarize yourself with the features on your vehicle—such as antilock brakes and electronic stability control—and how the features perform in slippery conditions. For example, your vehicle or pedals may pulsate when controlling traction.
  • For electric and hybrid-electric vehicles, minimize the drain on the battery. If the vehicle has a thermal heating pack for the battery, plug your vehicle in whenever it’s not in use. Preheat the passenger compartment before you unplug your vehicle in the morning.

When renting a car, become familiar with the vehicle before driving it off the lot. Know the location of the hazard lights switch in case of emergency, and review the owner’s manual so that you’re prepared for any driving situation that may arise.

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NHTSA.gov

Winter Car Emergency Kit:

Carry items in your vehicle to handle common winter driving-related tasks, such as cleaning off your windshield, as well as any supplies you might need in an emergency.

Keep the following in your vehicle:

  • Snow shovel, broom, and ice scraper.
  • Abrasive material such as sand or kitty litter, in case your vehicle gets stuck in the snow. If you don’t have sand or liter you can place a floor mat next to the tires and slowly drive over the floor mats.
  • Jumper cables, flashlight, and warning devices such as flares and emergency markers.
  • Blankets and hand warmers for protection from the cold.
  • Sleeping bag and winter boots for long trips
  • A cell phone with charger, water, food, and any necessary medicine (for longer trips or when driving in lightly populated areas).
  • First-aid kit (band-aids, adhesive tape, antiseptic wipes, gauze pads, antiseptic cream, medical wrap
  • Multi-tool (such as a Leatherman Tool or a Swiss Army Knife)
  • Battery– or hand-crank–powered radio

Vehicle Preparation:

Plan Your Travel and Route:

Keep yourself and others safe by planning ahead before you venture out into bad weather.

  • Check the weather, road conditions, and traffic.
  • Don’t rush; allow plenty of time to get to your destination safely. Plan to leave early if necessary.
  • Familiarize yourself with directions and maps before you go, even if you use a GPS system, and let others know your route and anticipated arrival time.

Battery:

When the temperature drops, so does battery power. For gasoline and diesel engines, it takes more battery power to start your vehicle in cold weather. For electric and hybrid electric vehicles, the driving range is reduced when the battery is cold, and battery systems work better after they warm up. Make sure your battery is up to the challenges of winter.

  • Have your mechanic check your battery for sufficient voltage, amperage and reserve capacity.
  • Have the charging system and belts inspected.
  • Replace the battery or make necessary system repairs, including simple things like tightening the battery cable connections.
  • Keep gasoline in a hybrid-electric vehicle, to support the gasoline engine.

Check Your Lights:

Make sure all the lights on your vehicle are in working order. Check your headlights, brake lights, turn signals, emergency flashers, and interior lights. Towing a trailer? Be sure to also check your trailer brake lights and turn signals. Trailer light connection failure is a common problem and a serious safety hazard.

Check Your Cooling System:

  • Make sure the cooling system is in proper working order.
  • Make sure you have enough coolant in your vehicle and the coolant meets the manufacturer’s specifications. See your vehicle owner’s manual for specific recommendations on coolant.
  • Thoroughly check the cooling system for leaks or have your mechanic do it for you.
  • Have the coolant tested for proper mix, proper pH (acidity) and strength of the built-in corrosion inhibitors. Over time, the rust inhibitors in antifreeze break down and become ineffective.
  • Drain and replace the coolant in your vehicle as recommended by the manufacturer, to remove dirt and rust particles that can clog the cooling system and cause it to fail.

Windshield Care:

Washer Reservoir - You can go through a lot of windshield wiper fluid fairly quickly in a single snowstorm, so be prepared for whatever might come your way.

  • Completely fill your vehicle’s reservoir before the first snow hits.
  • Use high-quality “winter” fluid with de-icer and keep extra in your vehicle.

Wipers and Defrosters - Safe winter driving depends on achieving and maintaining the best visibility possible.

  • Make sure your windshield wipers work; replace worn blades.
  • Consider installing heavy-duty winter wipers if you live in an area that gets a lot of snow and ice.
  • Check to see that your front and rear window defrosters work properly.

Floor Mats - Improperly installed floor mats in your vehicle may interfere with the operation of the accelerator or brake pedal, increasing the risk of a crash.

  • Remove old floor mats before installing new mats; never stack mats.
  • Use mats that are the correct size and fit for your vehicle.
  • Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for mat installation. Use available retention clips to secure the mat and prevent it from sliding forward.
  • Every time the mats are removed for any reason, verify that the driver’s mat is reinstalled correctly.

Tires:

  • If you plan to use snow tires, have them installed in the fall so you are prepared before it snows. Check out nhtsa.gov/tires for tire ratings before buying new ones and look for winter tires with the snowflake symbol.
  • Regardless of season, inspect your tires at least once a month and before long road trips. It only takes about five minutes. If you find yourself driving under less-than-optimal road conditions this winter, you’ll be glad you took the time. Don’t forget to check your spare tire.
  • As the outside temperature drops, so does tire inflation pressure. Make sure each tire is filled to the vehicle manufacturer’s recommended inflation pressure, which is listed in your owner’s manual and on a placard located on the driver's side door frame. The correct pressure is NOT the number listed on the tire. Be sure to check tires when they are cold, which means the car hasn’t been driven for at least 3 hours.
  • Look closely at your tread and replace tires that have uneven wear or insufficient tread. Tread should be at least 2/32 of an inch or greater on all tires.
  • Check the age of each tire. Some vehicle manufacturers recommend that tires be replaced every six years regardless of use, but check your owner’s manual to find out.
  • For more information on tire safety, visit NHTSA’s Tires page.

Childcare:

  • Remember that all children under age 13 should always ride properly buckled in the back seat.
  • Make sure car seats and booster seats are properly installed and that any children riding with you are in the right car seat, booster seat, or seat belt for their age and size. See NHTSA’s child passenger safety recommendations to find out how to select the right seat for your child’s age and size. To learn more and find a free car seat inspection station near you, please visit the Child Car Seat Inspection Station Locator.
  • Though thick outerwear will keep your children warm, it can interfere with the proper harness fit on your child in a car seat. Choose thin, warm layers for your child instead, and place blankets or coats around your child after the harness is snug and secure for extra warmth.
  • Never leave your child unattended in or around your vehicle.
  • Always remember to lock your vehicle and to keep your keys out of reach when exiting so children do not play or get trapped inside.

Stay Alert:

  • Keep your gas tank close to full, even with a hybrid-electric vehicle. If you get stuck in a traffic jam or in snow, you might need more fuel than you anticipated to get home or to keep warm.
  • If road conditions are hazardous, avoid driving if possible. Wait until road and weather conditions improve before venturing out in your vehicle.
  • On longer trips, plan enough time to stop to stretch, get something to eat, return calls or text messages, and change drivers or rest if you feel drowsy.

Avoid Risky Driving Behaviors:

  • Obey all posted speed limits, but drive even slower if necessary for weather conditions.
  • Drive slowly. It’s harder to control or stop your vehicle on a slick or snow-covered surface. On the road, increase your following distance enough so that you’ll have plenty of time to stop for vehicles ahead of you.
  • Know whether your vehicle has an antilock brake system and learn how to use it properly. Antilock brake systems prevent your wheels from locking up during braking. If you have antilock brakes, apply firm, continuous pressure to the brake pedal. If you don’t have antilock brakes, you may need to pump your brakes if you feel your wheels starting to lock up.

Navigating Around Snow Plows:

  • Don’t crowd a snow plow or travel beside it. Snow plows travel slowly, make wide turns, stop often, overlap lanes, and exit the road frequently.
  • The road behind an active snow plow is safer to drive on. If you find yourself behind a snowplow, stay behind it or use caution when passing.
  • When you are driving behind a snow plow, don’t follow or stop too closely. A snowplow operator’s field-of-vision is limited; if you can't see the mirrors, the driver can't see you. Also, materials used to de-ice the road could hit your vehicle.
  • Snow plows can throw up a cloud of snow that can reduce your visibility to zero in less time than you can react. Never drive into a snow cloud – it can conceal vehicles or hazards.

What to do in a winter emergency:

If you are stopped or stalled in wintry weather, follow these safety rules:

  • Stay in the vehicle and wait for help. Do not leave the vehicle to search for assistance unless help is visible within 100 yards (91 meters). You can quickly become disoriented and confused in blowing snow.
  • Display a trouble sign to indicate you need help. Hang a brightly colored cloth (preferably red) on the radio antenna and raise the hood after snow stops falling.
  • Run the engine occasionally to keep warm. Turn on the engine for about 10 minutes each hour (or five minutes every half hour). Running the engine for only short periods reduces the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning and conserves fuel. Use the heater while the engine is running. Keep the exhaust pipe clear of snow, and slightly open a downwind window for ventilation.
  • Leave the overhead light on when the engine is running so that you can be seen.
  • Do light exercises to keep up circulation. Clap your hands and move your arms and legs occasionally. Try not to stay in one position for too long.
  • If more than one person is in the vehicle, take turns sleeping. If you are not awakened periodically to increase body temperature and circulation, you can freeze to death.
  • Huddle together for warmth. Use newspapers, maps, and even the removable floor mats for added insulation. Layering items will help trap more body heat.
  • Watch for signs of frostbite and hypothermia. Severe cold can cause numbness, making you unaware of possible danger.
  • Drink fluids to avoid dehydration, which can make you more susceptible to the ill effects of cold and to heart attacks.
  • Avoid overexertion. Cold weather puts an added strain on the heart. Shoveling snow or pushing a vehicle can bring on a heart attack or make other medical conditions worse.

Frozen Ponds and Dangers of Ice:

During the dead of winter, ice may form on ponds and lakes but even in bitterly cold conditions the safety of being on the ice is questionable.

There is no way to judge the strength or safety of the ice by just looking at it or by the temperature of the day.

Ice thickness and strength can change with the temperature, exposure to sun, and currents in moving water.

Be very cautious with ice that is covered by snow. Snow can hide any cracks and weaknesses in the ice.

Basic tips:

  • Parents should always supervise children skating or playing on or near ice. Educate them on the risks of playing on ice, and outfit them with lifejackets. Never leave children alone on or near ice covered bodies of water.
  • Adults should prepare before going on ice. Wait to walk out onto ice until there is a minimum of four inches of clear, solid ice measured from multiple locations. Start measurements in an area where the water is shallow. If the thickness in the shallow area is less than three inches, do not walk on the ice.
  • Take someone with you, wear a life jacket, and bring safety equipment, including a cell phone, in case of an emergency.
  • Always keep your pets on a leash near frozen bodies of water. If a pet falls through the ice, do not attempt to rescue your pet, call 9-1-1 or go for help.
  • Stay clear of white ice. White ice contains air and snow within it, therefore, making it weaker.
  • Stay off river ice. Currents can quickly change the thickness of ice, making it more fragile.

When Someone Falls Through Ice:

  • If you come across someone who has fallen through the ice, don’t attempt a rescue yourself. Call 9-1-1 or immediately or go for help. Local public safety officers have proper training and equipment to handle ice emergencies.
  • If the ice did not support the victim’s weight, it will not support you. Avoid going onto the ice to attempt a rescue, but extend a ladder, rope, jumper cables, or tree branch to the victim along with something that will keep them afloat.
  • Once the person is rescued from the cold water, help the victim into dry clothes as soon as possible. If dry clothes aren’t an option, leave the wet clothes on for insulation to trap body heat.
  • Transport the victim to get medical attention if necessary.

If You Fall Through Ice:

  • Remain calm, and try not to panic. The body will undergo cold water shock when suddenly immersed in cold water, and you will experience an increase in heart rate and blood pressure.
  • Face the direction you came from and spread your arms out on the unbroken ice. Kick your feet and try to pull yourself onto the ice.
  • Once out of the cold water, remain lying on the ice (do not attempt to stand) to keep your weight distributed and avoid breaking through the ice. Roll away from the hole and crawl back to solid land. This keeps your weight distributed.
  • Treat yourself for hypothermia and seek medical attention.
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Winter Weather History in Arkansas:

Here are some weather facts from the official observation site for Little Rock.

  • Coldest Winter [December 1977 - February 1978]
  • Coldest Day [February 12, 1899, (5°F)]
  • Coldest Night [February 12, 1899 - (-12°F)]
  • Snowiest Day [March 6, 1875, 12”]
  • Snowiest Month [January 1918, 20”]
  • Snowiest Year [1960, 32.6”]
  • Snowiest 24 Hours [January 17 & 18, 1983, 13”]
  • Longest Period of No Snow [378 days February 6, 1907 to February 19, 1908]
  • Most number of days in the year at or below 32° [84 days, 1963]
  • Least number of days in the years at or below 32° [19 days, 1931]
  • Most number of days in the year at or below 20° [32 days, 1963]
  • Longest Period at or below 32° [12 days, December 19, 1983 to December 30, 1983]
  • Longest Period at or below 20° [4 days, February 9, 1899 to February 12, 1899]
  • Average Number of Days [1981-2010]
    • At or below 32° - 52 days
    • At or below 20° - 8 days
  • Warmest Winter [December 1889 to February 1890]

Associated Content: