Severe/Winter Weather Guides
About This Page
The National Weather Service authors Severe and Winter Weather guides annually. The guides serve to educate the public about hazardous weather and how to prepare for severe and winter storms.
 
Winter Guide (Winter Safety)
 
Most Winter fatalities occur in automobiles. Winter is the deceptive killer in that many deaths occur after the storm is gone. The vast majority of winter fatalities (about 70 percent) occur in automobiles...mostly as people lose control on icy roads.

Most other deaths are due to overexposure to subfreezing temperatures (hypothermia) and overexerting (shoveling snow, chopping wood, etc.) in the cold. The majority of winter's victims are males over 40 years of age.

 
Winter Fatalities
 
Automobiles

Travel is not recommended when severe winter weather is anticipated.

Why? Two reasons:

  • With snow and ice on roadways, motorists put themselves at risk. When traction becomes greatly reduced, accidents become much more likely.
  • Clearing icy roads becomes difficult when there is a lot of traffic. More cars delay salt crews and plows, with roads remaining hazardous for a longer period of time.

    However, with the fast pace of today...it's hard to keep people off of icy roads. So, if you must travel, slow down and use your brakes sparingly (to avoid sliding and spinning).

So you don't get stranded (or if you get stranded), you also want to do the following:

  • Winterize your vehicle (check antifreeze, depth of tire treads, overall running condition). Keep your gas tank at least half full to minimize ice in the tank.
  • Carry a Winter Storm Survival Kit with you in the trunk. The kit should include warm blankets, flash lights, non-perishable food, drinking water, and first aid. If you get stuck, the following tools might be helpful: a shovel, tow rope, cat litter (for traction), and jumper cables. Always bring a windshield scraper to help you see where you're going!
  • Before you leave, let someone know where you're going and what route you plan to take. It will make it easier to find you should you get stranded.
Don't get stranded! Get your vehicle ready for the road.
Overexposure/Overexertion

People don't realize how deadly the cold can be. A human being should have a body temperature of about 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, but a drop to 95 degrees or below can put the body in jeopardy. Such a drop in body temperature is known as hypothermia (the most dangerous and life threatening result of overexposure to the cold), and it is caused by not being protected from the chill of winter.

The effects of wind tend to complicate matters. It feels much colder (to exposed skin) with a strong breeze than with calm conditions (on a day with at or below freezing temperatures). The wind chill factor (or index) is a measure of the wind's effects...with a lower factor meaning that it feels colder to you.

In addition to making you feel cold, winter can also make you tired. Cold air (inhaled) is hard on internal organs...and causes the body to work overtime to stay warm. Any added exercise (such as shovelling) will cause the body to break down faster (especially those who are elderly or unfit)...with heart attacks fairly common during winter. Overexerting yourself during the cold months is not necessary! When you feel tired, stop what you are doing and finish the job later. Or...get help from a neighbor or friend.

Dressing for the Outdoors

To help your body beat the cold, here's what you need to do:

Protect yourself by dressing appropriately for cold weather.
  • Wear several layers of loose-fitting, light-weight clothing. The layers actually trap warm air...and keep the cold air out.

  • Wear a tightly woven water repellent coat...and a scarf. Cover your mouth to protect your lungs from the cold.

  • More than half of your body's heat escapes through your head and hands. Therefore...it's a good idea to wear a hat and mittens.

 

  • Don't forget your pets. They get cold too!
Don't forget your pets!
 
Around the House
 
It doesn't happen much in Arkansas, but major ice or snow storms can bring "cabin fever" (when you're stuck at home). While you're at home, the power could go out. And it can be very cold outside. So what do you do if a big winter storm is on the way?
  • Besides saving money on your electric bill, a well insulated home can make you feel warmer for a longer period of time when the electricity has been cut off. Check insulation in your attic, and make sure your windows are well sealed (not drafty).
  • Make sure there is ample food (non-perishable) in the cupboards.
  • Check flashlight batteries, and keep some candles handy (at night).
  • Water lines are prone to break when it's frigid. Allow a small stream of water to flow through your faucets...and this will keep water moving through the pipes.
Stock your cupboards before a Winter storm arrives.

 


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