Winter Weather Defined

With the recent severe weather warnings sent by the National Weather Service via the new CMAS/WEA system, it is drawing attention to what constitutes a severe weather situation. The NWS has four categories of weather situations, but what is the difference between them?

  • Winter Storm Outlook – This is an advance notice of winter storm conditions that are possible in the next 2 to 5 days.Severe Weather Warnings
  • Winter Weather Advisory – This is also an advance notice but with a caution that winter weather conditions are expected to cause significant inconveniences and may be hazardous.
  • Winter Storm Watch – This is a more immediate notice that winter storm conditions are possible within the next 36 to 48 hours. Those who are notified of a watch should review their winter storm plans and stay informed about weather conditions.
  • Winter Storm Warning – This is an immediate notice of life threatening severe winter conditions that have begun or will begin within 24 hours and precautions should be taken immediately.

The National Weather Service is currently requesting input on potential changes to how these messages are worded in the future. As an example, a proposed alternative term would change a “watch” notice to “forecasts the potential for” a weather event. The survey is open until March 31, 2013.

Visit the American Red Cross website to read more about preparing for Winter Storms and other types of emergency situations.

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