ARE YOU READY FOR WINTER WEATHER ?
A goal of the National Weather Service is to provide information on
winter storms, with enough advance notice to allow the whole community to
take actions needed to prepare for and deal with adverse and sometimes
dangerous weather conditions. As the threat of severe winter weather draws
closer, and the confidence in the location and timing of the event increases,
the National Weather Service will issue various bulletins that become
increasingly more specific. Here is what these bulletins mean, and what
precautions you should take:
NOAA's National Weather Service uses a four-tier approach to alert the
public for the potential for severe weather or high fire danger. This
four-tier approach consists of outlooks,
advisories, watches and
1) Winter Storm Outlook...
A winter storm outlook is issued when conditions are favorable
for hazardous winter weather to develop within the next 3 to 7 days. It is
intended for those groups that require considerable lead time to prepare for
ACTION: Stay tuned to local media or monitor NOAA Weather
Radio for updates. Evaluate your emergency action plan and the resources you
have in your home, car or work place to deal with a winter storm.
2) Winter Storm Watch...
A winter storm watch is issued when the risk of hazardous winter
weather has increased, but occurrence, location and timing is still somewhat
uncertain. Generally, a watch is issued when there is a significant threat of severe
winter weather in the next 12 to 48 hours.
ACTION: You should prepare now and ensure that all
emergency plans and resources are in place.
Note: Winter Storm Watches may be upgraded to Winter
Storm Warnings, if conditions warrant.
3) Winter Weather Advisory...
Winter weather advisories are issued for less serious winter
weather conditions that are occurring, or have a high likelihood of occurring.
These products are used for winter weather situations that are less severe than
a Warning, but will cause significant inconvenience. These situations should
not be life threatening, damage is usually localized and the main danger is
Note: This advisory may be upgraded to a Winter
Storm Warning if conditions warrant.
4) Winter Storm Warning...
A winter storm warning is issued when a hazardous winter weather
event is occurring, imminent, or has a very high probability of occurrence.
Warning products are used for conditions that pose a threat to life or
property. Winter Storm warnings are issued for several types of hazardous winter
weather, including heavy snow, sleet, or a combination of snow and wind.
ACTION: YOU SHOULD ACT NOW. STAY INDOORS IF POSSIBLE
UNTIL THE STORM ENDS. LIMIT TRAVEL TO ONLY WHAT IS ESSENTIAL.
5) Ice Storm Warning...
6) Blizzard Warning...
An ice storm warning is issued when freezing rain will
accumulate at a rate that causes a coating of ice that will make outdoor
activities dangerous. Tree limbs and power lines fall under the weight of
the ice. These conditions are fairly rare but, when they occur, can be especially
Blizzard warnings are issued when:
- There are sustained wind speeds of 35 mph or more, or frequents wind gusts of 35
mph or more.
- Considerable falling and/or blowing snow is occurring, reducing
visibility to less then 1/4 of a mile.
7) Dangerous Wind Chill Warning...
Wind chill warnings are issued when the wind chill of -20
degrees or colder are expected or occurring and:
8) Avalanche Warning...
Avalanche warnings are issued by the Northwest Avalanche
Forecast Center, located in Seattle. These products are issued when there is
a significant threat of avalanches in the Cascades and Olympics backcountry,
possibly affecting mountain roadways and other high country interests.
[For more info, see the NW Avalanche Center's website]
Additional Links of Interest...
- NOAA's Weather Safety website
- Preparedness for Severe Weather
- Each local office may have historic storm data and photographs online (see office links below)
Remember, in times of hazardous winter weather, you can get all these vital
NOAA/National Weather Service messages via NOAA Weather Radio, your favorite
local media, or through NOAA's National Weather Service websites.
For questions about local Winter Weather Preparedness, contact your local NOAA
National Weather Service Office:
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