Staying Safe in Winter Storms

Average temperatures in Arkansas are now about the same as the record high temps from the 1930s and 1950s. Fayetteville gets an average of 7″ of snowfall per year and Bentonville gets just a couple inches more.

The good news is that serious winter storms are not common in our region. The bad news is that, since they’re rare, we don’t always know what to do when one hits. 


Arkansas can get winter storms from November to March, but January and February are the most likely times. It makes sense to keep some extra food and water in your house during these months. You should also be sure to have a supply of any medications you or family members must take regularly. If you have a fireplace, bring in some firewood.

Usually, staying home is your best plan in a winter storm. If your heat and water fail, however, you may need to go to another place for shelter. This will be safer and easier if your car is in good condition. Think about taking it in for a checkup before the coldest part of winter, and make sure you have water and blankets in or near your car before a storm hits.

Bring your companion animals indoors before the storm begins. Charge your devices (phones, computers, tablets). Fill water bottles or tea kettles.

Some other things that can help keep you safe and comfortable during winter storms:

  • A safe alternative heat source like a space heater can be helpful. Don’t use makeshift heaters such as a grill. Keep your space heaters 3″ away from anything flammable.

  • Have blankets, hot water bottles, or battery-operated warming vests handy.
  • Layers of warm but light clothing will keep you warmer than one heavy sweater. Wool is generally warmer than synthetics.
  • Drink warm liquids, but avoid caffeine and alcohol. Both can make you more likely to suffer from hypothermia.

Most importantly, talk with your family about your preparations for a winter storm. Make sure that they know where emergency supplies are kept, and the plan if you must leave your home.


Actually, you don’t have to predict winter storms. They almost never happen without warning, and the National Weather Service will predict them for you.

Make a point of listening to the weather report or asking Siri or Alexa about the weather during the deepest part of the winter, or set up alerts on your phone so you will automatically get a warning when a winter storm is predicted. 

There are two sentences to listen for:

  • If you hear that there is a winter storm WATCH, then the conditions are right for a winter storm.
  • If you hear a winter storm WARNING, you should expect a winter storm to happen in the next 24 hours.


It’s natural to focus on immediate needs if a winter storm turns into an emergency situation. However, there are a few things you can do to prevent problems in the future.

If you must seek shelter in a public place, be sure to bring a mask and to keep 6 feet apart from other people. 

If the storm goes on for many hours or days, check in on your neighbors and make sure they are okay.

Keep an eye on older members of your own household, too. One of the most common health risks during winter storms is overexertion leading to a heart attack. Shoveling snow, clearing your roof, or getting livestock into shelter are all important tasks, but people who don’t usually do this kind of work can end up needing emergency medical attention at a time when driving is dangerous. Do these things before or after the storm, and do them carefully.

With the right kind of preparation and response, a winter storm can be an adventure. Plan ahead for your family’s safety.

See more winter storm advice from the CDC.