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Winter Storm Terms – What Do They Mean?

Before, during and after a storm, pay close attention to your local National Weather Service forecast for detailed information on the type of weather conditions expected, accumulations, possible impacts, as well as advisories, watches and warnings like these:

  • Winter Weather Advisory  – Any combination of snow, blowing snow, freezing rain and sleet that meets or exceeds a locally defined 12 and/or 24 hour advisory criteria, but remaining below warning  criteria.
  • Winter Storm Watch  – Conditions are favorable for a winter storm event (any combination of heavy snow, heavy sleet, ice storm, and blowing snow) to meet or exceed local criteria.
  • Winter Storm Warning  – Winter weather event that includes: snow, ice, or sleet meeting or exceeding locally defined 12 and/or 24 hour warning criteria; or a combination of snow, ice, or sleet and blowing snow with at least one of the precipitation elements meeting or exceeding locally defined criteria.
  • Blizzard Warning  – Sustained wind or frequent gusts greater than or equal to 35 mph accompanied by falling and/or blowing snow, frequently reducing visibility to less than 1/4 mile for three hours or more.   (Source:  NOAA, December 2013)