Winter is coming, and many people are unaware or don't necessarily know the difference between different warnings and or advisories issued through the winter. So we wanted to take a moment and let every know what some of these terms mean. Also, what you should know. Note that advisories and warnings may vary based on where you live. These are general guidelines for our area.
In short, if you hear of one of these, this is what you should know!
Warnings: Take action! Issued when weather occurs or will begin within 24 hours.
Watches: Be Prepared! Issued 1-2 days in advance.
Advisories: Be aware! Issued 2-5 days in advance.
Now, let us dive a little deeper into detail. We will hear these terms issued throughout the winter, like blizzard warning, winter storm watch, and windchill advisory! But what's the difference between a watch and a warning! What does a winter storm warning mean, and what's the difference between a winter storm watch and an advisory?
Let us start with an Outlook:
An Outlook is issued a few days in advance. Winter storm conditions are possible in the next 2-5 days. Stay tuned to local media for updates.
Winter Weather Advisory:
A winter storm advisory is generally issued a day or a couple of days before a winter storm system to let the general public know that some bad or inconvenient weather may be on the way and use caution. Generally but not always, this is saying the possibility of 3-5" of snow over 12 hours, sleet up to a quarter of an inch, freezing rain, blowing snow, or a combination of these. Again not crippling weather, but things you should be aware of and take caution.
Winter Storm Watch:
A Winter Storm Watch is generally issued 1-2 days in advance with moderate confidence or 50%+ probability. Winter storm conditions are possible within the next 36-48 hours. Prepare now! Similar to the advisory but with high confidence. 3-5" of snow expected over 12 hours, sleet up to a quarter of an inch, freezing rain, blowing snow, or a combination of these.
Winter Storm Warning:
A Winter Storm Warning is issued when life-threatening severe winter conditions have begun or will begin within 24 hours. Act now! Confidence is high on 6" of snow over 12 hours or 8"+ over 24 hours. It could also include 1/2" of sleet, freezing rain, blowing snow, or a combination of these! Travel may become very difficult to near impossible. So stay home if you can, make some hot cocoa, turn the heater on and watch the snow fly!
Is there a difference between a winter storm and a blizzard?
There is! You could have blizzard-like conditions during a winter storm, but a blizzard has a set checklist to be categorized as one.
A blizzard is when you have sustained winds or frequent gusts of 35 mph or greater with visibility reduced to a quarter of a mile due to falling and or blowing snow for at least three consecutive hours.
A ground blizzard meets the same criteria, but there is no falling snow, just blowing snow. These generally happen after a strong cold front pushes through following cold weather but, not always.
If you get stuck in a blizzard, do not leave your vehicle to search for help. Instead, stay put and call for help! You can get very disoriented in a blizzard. In addition, many life-threatening conditions occur when people leave their vehicles looking for help and either get frostbite or hypothermia.
A blizzard watch is issued generally 1-2 days in advance with moderate confidence that conditions are favorable for a blizzard.
A blizzard warning is issued when life-threatening blizzard conditions have begun or will begin within 24 hours. Blizzard conditions will last for at least 3 hours or more with reduced visibility under a quarter-mile. Pay attention to the warning timing and snow accumulation expected. Snow accumulation is not always needed for a blizzard, then categorized as a ground blizzard! Traveling conditions will be near impossible. If you get stuck in a blizzard, do not leave your vehicle to search for help. Instead, stay put and call for help! You can get very disoriented in a blizzard. Unfortunately, many deaths or life-threatening conditions occur when people leave their vehicles looking for help.
Other watches or warnings you may hear include but are not limited to:
Wind Chill Advisory: Wind chill values are expected where frostbite will set in within a limited time outside. Generally, wind chill values are between -20 and -40 degrees Fahrenheit.
Wind Chill Warning: Windchill values are expected where frostbite can set in within minutes. Generally, values of -40 degrees Fahrenheit or colder.
Ice storm Warning: Expecting a quarter-inch of ice accumulation.
Do you have your winter survival kit in your trunk yet? You may not need it but you will surely be thankful that you do if you find yourself in a pickle! take a moment and put it together. It may save your life and that itself is worth spending a couple of dollars if you don't have some of these items. Check out the attached image for some things you should have!