Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It – Oh, Never Mind!

Motorists navigate a city street in white out conditions.

December 6, 2021

It’s December, the heart of the winter holiday season – the most wonderful time of the year, when you’re a kid. When you’re an adult, maybe not so much – depending on the weather Old Man Winter sends our way.

When a winter storm looms, the National Weather Service (NWS) works to help keep us safe by issuing winter weather watches, advisories and warnings. But remembering what they all mean can be confusing.

  • Winter Storm Watch – severe winter conditions, such as heavy snow or ice, may affect your area, but where, when and how much are still uncertain. NWS issues a watch to provide 12 to 36 hours’ notice of possible severe winter weather. A watch is intended to provide enough lead time for you to prepare.

As the weather event approaches your area, the watch may be upgraded to:

  • Winter Weather Advisory – winter weather conditions are expected to cause significant inconveniences that may be hazardous. Travel difficulties are expected, but if caution is exercised, advisory situations should not become life-threatening.
  • Winter Storm Warning – a significant winter weather event involving snow, ice, sleet, blowing snow or a combination of these hazards is forecast. Considerable travel difficulties are expected.
  • Blizzard Warning – snow and strong winds will combine to produce blinding snow (near zero visibility), deep drifts, and life-threatening wind chill. Do not travel.

In any potentially hazardous winter weather situation, be sure to listen carefully to the radio, television or National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio for the latest winter storm information including watches, advisories and warnings.

More information on how to safely prepare for and deal with winter weather is available at weather.gov/safety/winter*.

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