While the frequency of extreme winter weather events is relatively small in the ArkLaMiss region, we do see our fair share of winter events every year. Winter weather can cause significant property damage, injury, and even death. With the start of each new season, preparation is the key to lessening the dangers and hazards associated with winter weather.
What are the differences between freezing rain, sleet, and snow???
The challenges of winter weather forecasting go beyond predicting when it will snow or how much snow will fall. At times, determining the type of precipitation is an even bigger forecast challenge, especially in the South where warmer air can reside further up in the atmosphere! Precipitation type with winter weather is largely related to the temperature profile in the atmosphere (basically between the ground and ~ 20K feet up). Typically, it gets colder as you go up in elevation but sometimes there can be a “warm layer” of air that gets wedged between the ground and the clouds. This will have an effect on the melting/freezing processes of precipitation. Refer to the graphic below that explains how you can get freezing rain versus sleet versus snow or just all rain.
What is Wind Chill?
Wind chill is the the air temperature the skin feels when it is exposed to the wind. The wind chill temperature is always lower than the actual air temperature. The wind chill is dependant on air temperature and wind speeds with the colder the air temperature and the higher the wind speed, the colder the wind chill. Exposure to very low wind chills will allow for frostbite to take effect in a much shorter amount of time than higher wind chills.
Local Winter Weather Products and Criteria
|Winter Storm Watch||At least a 50% chance that warning criteria(see under Winter Storm Warning) will be met in the next 12 to 24 hours.|
|Winter Weather Advisory||1" to 2" of snow and/or sleet in less than 12 hours or accumulation of freezing rain(ice) less than 1/4".|
|Freezing Rain Advisory||
Ice accumulations up to 1/4".
|Wind Chill Advisory||Wind chill readings between -14°F and 9°F|
|Winter Storm Warning||2" or greater of snow in 12 hours, accumulation of freezing rain(ice) greater than 1/4", or greater than 1/2" of sleet accumulation.|
|Ice Storm Warning||Ice accumulations of 1/4" or greater or 1/2" or greater of sleet accumulation.|
|Wind Chill Warning||Wind chill readings at or below -15°F|
|Freeze Warning||Temperatures at or below 32°F for at least 1 to 2 hours during a climatalogically significant time of the year (first freeze of the fall, a freeze soon after vegetation has budded/bloomed in the spring, a freeze during the growing season)|
Winter Weather Safety Tips
Vehicle Preparedness and Safety
Plan your travel and check the latest forecasts. Avoid winter storms whenever possible.
Fully check and winterize your vehicle before starting your travel. Make sure your car battery has enough power, and your car is filled with antifreeze.
Let someone know your timetable and your primary and alternate travel routes.
Keep your gas tank near full to prevent ice from forming in the fuel lines.
If you encounter sleet or freezing rain, drive extremely cautiously. Even 4-wheel drive vehicles will have difficulty on icy roads. Try to avoid overpasses and bridges if at all possible.
If you are planning travel into an area which experiences significant winter storms, carry a winter storm survival kit including blankets, flashlight, high-calorie snack foods, sand or cat litter, tow rope, booster cables, and a water container. Make sure your cell phone is fully charged.
Dressing for the Weather
Wear loose-fitting, lightweight clothing in several layers.
Outer garments should be tightly-woven and water-repellant.
Wear a hat. Nearly half of your body heat loss is from the top of your head.
Wear gloves or mittens (mittens which are snug at the wrist are better than gloves).
Try to stay dry. Remove layers of clothing to prevent perspiration and subsequent chill.
Preparing Your Home
The primary concerns are the potential loss of power and telephone service. If winter weather conditions last for more than a day, then a shortage of supplies may also be a concern.
Have extra food and water. Have high energy food, such as dried fruit, nuts and granola bars, and food requiring no cooking or refrigeration.
Have a flashlight and extra batteries available. Don’t use candles if the electricity goes out, since these can become a fire hazard.
Use a battery-powered NOAA Weather Radio and a portable radio to receive emergency information.
If you have a fireplace or wood stove, make sure you have a good supply of firewood. Learn to use any emergency heating sources properly, to prevent a fire.
Keep extra medicine, baby items, and first-aid supplies on hand.
Close off unneeded rooms and place towels or rags in cracks under the doors.