Winter weather. If you live in a state that gets snow and ice, you know that a snow storm can put a damper on travel plans, even if your “plan” only involves driving to work. During winter months, you likely start your day by watching the weather forecast. When the forecast calls for a winter storm, what do the terms mean? We’ve developed a handy reference to help you understand what the winter weather notices mean.
Decoding Common Winter Weather Terms:
- Winter Weather Advisory – When you hear the term “advisory” it means that winter weather is fast approaching your area, but it hasn’t started yet. In the case of a winter weather advisory, you will likely see light snow, some blowing, and possibly slick conditions (caused by snow blowing over the roads).
- Winter Weather Watch – Be prepared for snow, sleet or ice, because the conditions are present in the atmosphere for winter weather, but it likely hasn’t started yet.
- Winter Weather Warning – If forecasters are using the term “warning” they are confident that you will experience a winter storm with heavy snow, sleet or freezing rain, which will cause impacts to your travel.
- Freezing Rain – This is the term used when the rain the freezes upon hitting the ground. The air may be warm enough that rain falls in liquid form, but the ground is cold enough that it will freeze water droplets when they hit the ground. As you can imagine, freezing rain creates slick driving conditions for travelers.
- Sleet – Sleet is a mixture of rain, snow, ice pellets or hail. Generally, when you have sleet, air temperatures are as cold as the ground temperatures, so moisture freezes as it falls.
- Wind Chill – The wind chill is based on how fast people lose heat based on the heat loss from exposed skin. (The higher the wind, the faster you will lose heat during already cold conditions).
- Blizzard – A blizzard causes reduced visibility because strong winds (35 mph or more) are blowing either falling snow or snow that is already on the ground. Many people associate severe temperatures with blizzards, but extreme cold isn’t necessarily a quality required for a blizzard.
Don’t let winter weather put a damper on your plans. Be sure to regularly watch the forecast, and plan ahead! If you travel, it’s always a good idea to build a Winter Weather Travel Kit for your car, filled with provisions in case a storm pops up. Consider winterizing your car before the cold season begins in your state.