Storm Awareness

Know what winter storm and blizzard WATCHES and WARNINGS mean.

A winter storm WATCH means a significant winter storm may affect your area, but its 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 watch will often be issued when neither the path of a developing winter storm nor the consequences of the weather event are as yet well defined. Ideally, the winter storm watch will eventually be upgraded to a warning when the nature and location of the developing weather event becomes more apparent.

A winter storm watch is intended to provide enough lead time so those who need to set plans in motion can do so.

A winter storm WARNING means a winter storm is occurring, or will occur, in your area.

It is issued when 7 or more inches of snow or sleet is expected in the next 24 hours, or 1/2 inch or more of accretion of freezing rain is expected. A warning is used for winter weather conditions posing a threat to life and property.

A blizzard WARNING means blizzard condition (sustained winds or frequent gusts to 35 miles per hour or greater and considerable falling or blowing snow, reducing visibility to less than a quarter mile, for a period of three hours or longer) are expected or are occurring.

Other Winter Weather advisories, watches and warnings include:

Freeze Warning – Issued during the growing season when surface temperatures are expected to drop below freezing over a large area for an extended period of time, regardless if frost develops or not.

Frost Advisory – Issued during the growing season when widespread frost formation is expected over an extensive area. Surface temperatures are usually in the mid 30s Fahrenheit

Wind Chill Advisory– Issued when the wind chill index is expected to be between -25F and -39F for at least 3 hours. This is using the wind chill of the sustained wind, not gusts.

Wind Chill Warning– Issued when life-threatening wind chills of -40F or colder are expected for at least 3 hours. This is using the wind chill of the sustained wind, not gusts.

Winter Weather Advisory– Issued when 4, 5, or 6 inches of snow or sleet is expected in 24 hours; or any accretion of freezing rain or freezing drizzle is expected on road surfaces; or when blowing or drifting snow is expected to occasionally reduce visibility to 1/4 mile or less.

Did You Know…

Winter storms are considered deceptive killers because most deaths are indirectly related to the storm. The leading cause of death during winter storms is from automobile or other transportation accidents. Exhaustion and heart attacks caused by overexertion are the two most likely causes of winter storm-related deaths. Elderly people account for the largest percentage of hypothermia victims. Many older Americans literally “freeze to death” in their own homes after being exposed to dangerously cold indoor temperatures, or are asphyxiated because of improper use of fuels such as charcoal briquettes, which produce carbon monoxide.

House fires occur more frequently in the winter due to lack of proper safety precautions when using alternate heating sources (unattended fires, improperly placed space heaters, illegal use of kerosene heaters, etc.). Fire during winter storms presents a great danger because water supplies may freeze and it may be difficult for firefighting equipment to get to the fire.