Winter Watches and Warnings -

Winter Watches and Warnings

When you think of weather watches and warnings I'll bet you identify them with severe thunderstorms and tornadoes. While severe convective storms and flooding certainly pose a significant threat to life and property, Winter weather can also be severe in it's own way.

The National Weather Service has a complete list of advisories, watches and warnings for Winter weather. I've copied most of them from our Weather Safety Guide for your convenience.

Winter Weather Advisory

Look for at least one of the following conditions (amounts are for 12 hours):

Snow (three to five inches)
Sleet(less than one-half inch)
Freezing rain (less than one-quarter inch)
Freezing drizzle (any amount)
Drifting snow and dangerous wind chills may be present
Winter Storm Watch

Potential for heavy snow, blizzard or ice storm

Winter Storm Warning

At least one of the following conditions will prevail (amounts are for 12 hours):

Heavy snow (six or more inches)
Sleet (one-half inch or more)
Freezing rain (one-quarter inch or more)
May also include blowing and drifting snow and dangerous wind chills.
Blizzard Warning

Sustained wind or frequent gusts at least 35 mph and visibility one-quarter mile or less with falling, blowing snow persisting for more than three hours.


Flurries: Light snow falling for short durations. No accumulation or light
dusting is all that is expected.

Snow Showers: Snow falling at varying intensities for brief periods of time. Some accumulation is possible.

Squalls: Brief, intense snow showers accompanied by strong, gusty winds. Accumulation may be significant. Snow squalls are best known in the Great Lakes region.

Blowing Snow: Wind-driven snow that reduces visibility and causes significant drifting. Blowing snow may be snow that is falling and/or loose snow on the ground picked up by the wind.

Blizzard: Winds over 35 mph with snow and blowing snow reducing visibility to near zero.

Sleet: Rain drops that freeze into pellets before reaching the ground. Sleet usually bounces and does not stick to objects. However, it can accumulate like snow resulting in a hazard to motorists.

Freezing Rain: Rain that falls onto a surface with a temperature below freezing. Even small accumulations can cause a significant hazard.

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