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California wildfires force thousands to evacuate: Live updates

Wildfires are raging through parts of Southern California, burning thousands of acres, destroying homes and businesses and forcing thousands of residents to evacuate.

>> PHOTOS: California wildfires burn thousands of acres, force evacuations

>> Click here or scroll down for more

>> Read more trending news 

Haunting video of starving polar bear goes viral, breaks hearts

heartbreaking video of a skeletal polar bear scavenging for food in a desolate landscape is going viral online. The clip of the bear, which was released by the National Geographic channel, is gut-wrenching.

>> See the clip here (WARNING: Viewer discretion advised.)

Photographer Paul Nicklen, who has been with National Geographic for 17 years, says recording the video was even more heartbreaking. He’s spent his life filming bears and estimates that he’s come across about 3,000 of them, but the animal in his latest video was unlike the rest. In an article about the clip, Nicklen recalled, “We stood there crying — filming with tears rolling down our cheeks.”

>> Read more trending news 

Nicklen says he’s often asked why he didn’t do something, but he explains, “Of course, that crossed my mind. But it’s not like I walk around with a tranquilizer gun or 400 pounds of seal meat.” He added, “When scientists say bears are going extinct, I want people to realize what it looks like. Bears are going to starve to death. This is what a starving bear looks like.”

The internet has definitely felt the gut-punch of the video, which sparked an outcry. Actor Kumail Nanjiani offered one off-hand solution to the problem:

Unfortunately, animals seem to have a very bleak future in front of them. The No. 1 threat to the world’s 22,000 polar bears is climate change, according to a World Wildlife Foundation report. The bears spend the winter months on the ice, where they do a lot of laying around and a whole lot of eating seals; they fast during the summer. But as the winter months have become warmer, it takes longer for the ice to reappear each season, meaning that the animals have less time to eat, and they have to fast for a longer stretch of time. In short, no ice means no seals, which could soon mean no polar bears.

Buzzfeed News also uploaded a video of the tear-jerking scene that has made the rounds online.

Government agencies monitoring about climate change are also warning that we could possibly lose polar bears as early as 2050, per a Washington Post report.

Read more here.

Winter weather watch, warning and advisory: What's the difference?

 

Have you ever wondered how the National Weather Service can tell that a major winter storm is brewing and will affect your area in the coming days or hours? How can meteorologists tell if a storm is intensifying and where it will bring the most snow?

>> Read more trending news

It's a highly sophisticated process. It starts with observing the current situation. The National Weather Service operates a widespread network of observing systems such as geostationary satellites.

How are winter storms monitored and forecast?

Doppler radars and automated surface observing systems constantly monitor the current state-of-the-art numerical computer models to provide a glimpse of what will happen next, ranging from hours to days. 

The models are then analyzed by NWS meteorologists, who use their experience and expertise to write and disseminate forecasts. 

Winter weather watches, warnings and advisories: What do they all mean? 

The National Weather Service uses specific winter weather terms to ensure that people know what to expect in the coming days and hours.

Winter storm watch means that severe winter conditions, such as heavy snow and/or ice, may affect your area, but their occurrence, location and timing are still uncertain. A winter storm watch is issued to provide 12 to 36 hours notice of the possibility of severe winter weather. A winter storm watch is intended to provide enough lead time so those who need to set plans in motion can do so.

A watch is upgraded to a winter storm warning when 4 or more inches of snow or sleet are expected in the next 12 hours or 6 or more inches in 24 hours, or a quarter-inch or more of ice accumulation is expected.

A winter weather advisory informs the public that winter weather conditions are expected to cause significant inconveniences that may be hazardous. If caution is exercised, advisory situations should not become life-threatening.

A blizzard warning means that snow and strong winds will combine to produce a blinding snow (near zero visibility), deep drifts and life-threatening wind chills. Listen carefully to the radio, television and NOAA weather radios for the latest winter storm watches, warnings and advisories. 

For additional information on this, visit the winter weather awareness web page.

Why is predicting the exact amount of snowfall so challenging?

Snow forecasts continue to improve, but they remain a challenging task for meteorologists. Heavy snow often falls in small bands that are hard to discern on larger-scale computer models. In addition, extremely small temperature differences define the boundary line between rain and snow.

Will the approaching storm bring heavy snowfall to your area?

Each winter, meteorologists at the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma, monitor weather data from across the nation for developing bands of heavy snow and freezing precipitation, as well as lightning, within weather systems.

Their ability to provide additional information about developing situations enhances winter storm warnings and helps National Weather Service field offices, private industry and local governments improve preparedness. For instance, a prediction of 8 inches of snow carries much greater consequences for a city's rush hour than 4 inches.

Want to learn more about the Storm Prediction Center's operations? For additional information visit the Storm Prediction Center web page.

How to keep your kids entertained when stuck at home by severe weather

When severe weather keeps you inside your home with your children, there are things you can do to keep kids entertained while you keep your sanity.

>> Read more trending news

If you're home for the day, or a few days, here are a few things you can do to stay entertained without going crazy or running up your data plans.

If you still have power:

Do some family-friendly baking:

One way to keep kids occupied is with a slew of simple cooking tasks (cracking eggs, manning the mixing bowl) and the promise of sweets.

Cooking Light has a roundup of “kid-friendly desserts,” including gluten-free s'more bars, chewy caramel apple cookies and more. If you run through that list, the Food Network has another.

And not having kids is no reason not to bake in bad weather: for company, just sub in the closet available roommates, family, friends or pets. (This advice applies to the rest of the list.)

Check out these party games:

Jackbox's Drawful is a bizarre twist on Pictionary: players score points not just for drawing the best possible version of, say, "angry ants"; but also for getting other players to guess their answer for a given drawing instead of the correct one.

Drawful comes packaged as part of the Jackbox Party Pack and is available to buy and download here, and is compatible with the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Amazon Fire TV and others. All you need to play is a phone, tablet or controller. 

But if you're feeling more competitive and less artistic, consider QuizUp. Available for both iPhone and Android. This competitive trivia app pits two players against each other in seven rounds of questions in one of several hundred different categories, including pop culture and academia. And it's free. 

Get crafty:

Create a crafting area in your home. Fill it with crafting materials like tape, paper and boxes. When inspiration strikes your child, they can create fun things in their own “workshop.”

Without power:

Get clever:

When the house goes dark, kids’ imaginations light up. A trip to the bathroom with a flashlight can become an adventure, and reading stories by candlelight will stick with them more than just another movie night. 

Get ahead of a power outage:

Stock up on glow sticks. Kids can really have fun with these simple light sticks. Once you crack them, they provide a bright light for up to 12 hours and a dim light for as long as 36 hours. They come in all kinds of shapes, sizes and colors, and can provide hours of fun for children.

Build a fort:

Kids love building forts just for fun anyway. So if you find yourself in the dark without power, gather up pillows and blankets, and plan on moving some furniture around to help your little ones build the perfect fortress. You can even make it more like an adventure. Plan to snuggle in for the night, and maybe tell a few ghost stories, too.

7 tips to keep your pets safe during winter weather

Winter storms are common this time of year, and while we bundle up our human members of the family to stay safe and warm, you have to also remember the four-footed fur babies.

>> Read more trending stories  

The ASPCA has released tips for keeping your pets safe during the winter months.

1.Keep your home humidified and dry your pet with a towel as soon as he comes in from the cold. Make sure the animal's feet are free of snow. Wash your pet's feet and stomach after a walk to remove ice, salt and chemicals.

2. Fully bathe your pets as little as possible during cold weather. Too many baths can get rid of essential oils. If you must give your pet a bath, use a moisturizing shampoo and/or rinse. 

3. Don't shave your dog in the winter. A longer coat will give your dogs more insulation. If your dog is a short-haired pup, consider a coat or sweater with a high collar or turtleneck. Also make sure it covers from the base of the tail to the belly.

4. Use petroleum jelly or other paw protectants on paws before going out. You can go as far as putting on booties to keep sand and salt away from their pads. When possible, use pet-friendly ice melts on your sidewalks.

5. Feed your pet a little more during winter months and make sure he has enough to drink. Pets burn extra energy trying to stay warm. The extra water can keep him hydrated and his skin less dry.

6. Make sure your pet has a warm place to sleep, off of the floor and away from drafts. The ASPCA says a pet bed with a blanket or pillow will work.

7. If it's too cold for you outside, it's too cold for your pet. Pets left outside can freeze, become disoriented, lost, stolen, injured or even killed. And don't let them in a car. Cars can act as refrigerators, according to the ASPCA. They can hold the cold in and cause animals to freeze to death.

Black ice: What Georgia drivers need to know to stay safe

Black ice can be one of the most dangerous hazards for wintertime drivers, since it's nearly invisible.

What is black ice?

It can form when the air is below freezing at the surface and it's raining, according to AccuWeather. Melting snow that refreezes, freezing rain, mist or fog can also result in black ice.

» Atlanta weather: Forecast, updates and news

It's referred to as black ice since it's clear and becomes almost invisible against the black asphalt of a road. This thin layer is very dangerous because you probably won't see it in advance and may skid, take much longer to brake and find your vehicle much more difficult to control.

When and where does black ice form?

Black ice is more likely to form around dawn and in the late evening because temperatures are often at their lowest then.

Shaded sections of road are prone to forming black ice because they don't receive much sunlight, which can warm and melt the ice. Bridges and overpasses can also quickly form black ice since they're surrounded by cold air above and below, so they freeze more quickly.

» Quiz: Do you know what to do if you encounter black ice?

Back roads that don't see much traffic area also more prone to black ice formation. That's because friction from traffic warms the road, so roadways that don't have much traffic are more likely to ice over.

How should you drive in freezing temperatures?

Before you start driving, check your driveway and look at the road as best you can. If you see darker spots, which may look more duller or shinier than their surroundings, it could be black ice.

Even if you don't see any, that's no guarantee, however, since road conditions can vary widely. It pays to stay alert when temperatures are at freezing or below, particularly when you're driving on potential problem areas such as shady roads or bridges.

Don't use cruise control, since you may need to slow down or make other adjustments. It can also cause your car to accelerate in a skid as your cruise control tries to maintain a constant speed, and this can make it much more difficult to control your vehicle.

» Why you should never use your hazard lights while driving

Be aware of the cars in front of you, and if the pavement looks wet, check to see if they're leaving tracks or are kicking up water. If they're not, it could be a sign that the pavement is actually iced over, resulting in black ice roads.

Also avoid unnecessarily changing lanes, where you could hit black ice between lanes. Leave enough room between you and the car in front of you so you can have adequate time to stop if the car in front of you starts to fishtail. And if it's your vehicle that hits black ice, it will take you about nine times longer to stop under these circumstances than it takes on dry pavement, according to georgia.gov.

What if you hit black ice?

If you do happen to hit a patch of black ice, use the following tips:

Avoid braking and instead ease off of the accelerator and steer in the direction you want the front of your car to go in. Don't overcorrect if your vehicle starts to slide.

If you have antilock brakes, don't pump your brakes. If you're driving a vehicle without antilock brakes, keep your heel on the floor and use firm pressure on the brake.

Sources: AJC.com, cars.com, Georgia.gov and accuweather.com.

Winter storm warning, advisory issued ahead of metro Atlanta snow threat

ATLANTA FORECAST

Today: Patchy drizzle possible. High: 47

Tonight: More rain possible. Low: 40

Tomorrow: Rain and snow mix possible. High: 38

» For a detailed forecast, visit The Atlanta Journal-Constitution weather page.

Ahead of a wintry mix expected to hit the metro area, The National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning for parts of north Georgia. 

The warning is in effect for Dawson, Fannin, Gilmer, Habersham, Lumpkin, Rabun, Towns, Union, and White counties until 7 a.m. Saturday. The region, which is also under a winter weather advisory, could get between one and three inches of snow in the northeast Georgia mountains, according to updated models. 

Parts of the metro area are also under advisory, which is expected to last between 5 a.m. Friday and 7 a.m. Saturday. Counties included in the advisory are: Bartow, Carroll, Cherokee, Clayton, Cobb, Coweta, DeKalb, Douglas, Fayette, Floyd, Forsyth, Fulton, Gordon, Gwinnett, Hall, Haralson, Heard, Murray, Paulding, Pickens, Polk and Troup. 

The weather warning and advisory come ahead of a wintry mix of rain and snow expected to hit the metro area and north Georgia about 3 a.m. Friday, according to Channel 2 Action News. Metro Atlanta, particularly the I-85

corridor, could get between a half-inch and 1 inch of snow.

MORE: Winter weather watch, warning and advisory: What’s the difference?

“Of course, with the roads being so warm (in metro Atlanta), the majority of that will melt on impact,” Channel 2 Chief meteorologist Glenn Burns said.

According to the latest forecast, there is a 70 percent chance of precipitation Friday, and the wintry mix could continue into Saturday and “anything lingering on the road could freeze into black ice,” Channel 2 reported. 

Temperatures should be near freezing Friday morning as rain expands in the metro area. Heavier snow is possible by noon, according to Channel 2. By 9 p.m. Friday, snow should move out of metro Atlanta, and the wintry mix is expected to end by 11 p.m. 

“The biggest concern may be Saturday morning when all of this moisture continues to run off on area roads,” Burns said. “The moisture melts, then refreezes as we get some really cold temperatures with lows in the 20s.”

MORE: Metro Atlanta braces for winter weather

Habersham and White County school systems announced on their websites that schools will be closed Friday due to inclement weather. 

But even with the wintry mix, “do not go to the grocery store and wipe out all the bread and milk because you won’t need it,” Channel 2 meteorologist Karen Minton said.

The forecast is fluid, according to Channel 2. 

So far, no local governments or metro Atlanta schools have announced cancellations or delays. Atlanta, Decatur and Fulton County schools have stated they will remain open Friday. Dekalb and Cobb County schools have not said if they plan to remain open. Any cancellations by Gwinnett County schools should come 6 a.m. per their procedures.  

The Georgia high school football championships scheduled for Friday and Saturday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium will continue as scheduled unless conditions worsen, a Georgia High School Association spokesman told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

RELATED: 6 reasons Atlanta hates winter weather

College students entering the metro area for their holiday break should be fine, Burns said. 

“The road temperatures are in the upper 50s and 60s,” he said in a Facebook Live video. “It’s going to take a lot to make these roads go below freezing. (GDOT) is pretreating the roads, so even if they do (become icy), we’re not going to have any significant travel issues.” 

RELATED: Why do we buy bread and milk before a snowstorm?

Some aren’t taking any chances.

Delta Air Lines waived change fees for travelers ahead of the snow.

RELATED: Delta waives change fees for travelers ahead of snow threat

Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport will have de-icing pads open for airlines to use, spokesman Reese McCranie said. The airport doesn't anticipate mass flight cancellations because the ground temperature will be above freezing, but the de-icing pads will be open because of anticipated precipitation, according to McCranie.

The Georgia Department of Transportation is preparing multiple brine trucks. Brine is a salt and water solution that keeps ice from forming on roads.

The brine trucks will fan out across metro Atlanta starting at 9 p.m. Thursday, according to the agency. Ten will hit the interstates, officials said. Another truck will be reserved for trouble spots such as interchanges and overpasses.

The Cobb County Department of Transportation started treating bridges at noon Thursday, officials said. The process usually takes between three to four hours. The department has four trucks loaded with a total of 800 gallons of brine.

RELATED: Cobb County weather preps

Fulton County spokesman Greg Thomas said discussions are ongoing about whether to close any buildings or cancel anything. The county has some brine trucks ready to treat roads in the new south Fulton city of Renaissance, where it is still responsible for transportation.

RELATED: When will metro Atlanta schools decide to close for bad weather?

"Right now, we're just waiting and seeing," Thomas said. "We don't know if we're going to get nothing, rain or snow."

The Fulton County Public Works Department will start staggering shifts with snowplow-equipped sand spreaders early Friday.

“Drivers are reminded that inclement weather like Fulton County may see makes roads slippery,” the county said in a media statement. “Drivers should reduce their speed and allow more time and distance for braking.” 

Gwinnett County fire officials attended a National Weather Service briefing at the Gwinnett Office of Emergency Management, Capt. Tommy Rutledge said.

“We are ... always prepared to staff additional units and resources should the need arise,” he said. “We will be in contact with other public safety stakeholders throughout the weekend.”

RELATED: Lawrenceville cancels Hometown Christmas Parade due to winter weather

DeKalb County Emergency Management Agency Director Sue Loeffler urged residents “to get winter-storm ready by creating an emergency plan and assembling an emergency preparedness kit.”

Mike Singleton, who runs the Fayette County emergency management department, was meeting with the state DOT to determine how the county plans to respond to the inclement weather, a county spokeswoman said. The county had reached out to staff to let them know how they would receive weather alerts if there are problems.

Saturday and Sunday could see highs in the 40s after wintry conditions leave the metro area. 

MORE: How – and when – to protect your pipes from freezing ALSO: 7 winter driving tips

— Staff writers Tyler Estep, Arielle Kass, Meris Lutz, Tia Mitchell, Leon Stafford, Tim Ellerbee and Kelly Yamanouchi contributed to this article.

Scenes from Southern California Wildfire

Scenes from Southern California Wildfire

New: Up to 1 inch of snow possible in metro Atlanta on Friday 

Updated chance of snow forecast

ATLANTA FORECAST

Today: Mostly cloudy. High: 49

Tonight: Rain possible. Low: 43

Tomorrow: Mostly cloudy. High: 48

» For a detailed forecast, visit The Atlanta Journal-Constitution weather page.

While the mixture of sleet and rain moved out of the Atlanta area, sleet could return Thursday and up to 1 inch of snow is possible Friday, Channel 2 Action News meteorologists said.

“It looks like Friday, there is a chance for the metro area to see rain mixed with snow actually change over to snow,” Channel 2 Chief meteorologist Glenn Burns said, adding that between half an inch and 1 inch of snow could accumulate. 

But Burns stressed that the forecast could change and shift north or south, meaning Atlanta wouldn’t see snow.

So don’t panic and wipe clean the bread and milk aisles of your neighborhood grocery stores.

“There is still a lot of uncertainty,” Channel 2 meteorologist Brad Nitz said.

Temps are expected to be in the mid-30s in Atlanta by 6 a.m. Friday.

“If anything falls and makes it to the ground, it wouldn’t stick around for long,” Nitz said. “It’ll be melting snow. But up above the ground, higher up in the atmosphere where it’s below freezing, falling as snow and then melting as it approaches the ground, so you get that rain/snow mix.”

Currently, It’s 41 degrees in Atlanta.

The expected high Thursday is 48 degrees, the news station reported. The average high for this time of year is 56.

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