Winter Weather Terms


The National Weather Service issues a variety of winter weather watches, warnings and advisories. Here are a few definitions to help local emergency managers and their staff this winter.


Winter Storm Watch: The potential exists for heavy snow (6 inches or more in 12 hours or less or 8 inches or more in 24 hours or less) or dangerous accumulations of ice during the next 24 to 36 hours. Dangerous wind chill readings and blowing/drifting snow is also possible.


Winter Storm Warning: Heavy snow or a dangerous accumulation of ice is imminent or occurring. Very low wind chill readings and strong winds may also occur.


Winter Weather Advisory: Wintery precipitation is expected (snow, sleet or freezing rain alone or in combination) to result in travel problems, but the accumulations are expected to be below the criteria used in a warning.


Ice Storm Warning: Dangerous accumulations of ice are expected with generally over one-quarter inch of ice on exposed surfaces. Travel becomes nearly impossible, and widespread downed trees and power lines often result.


Wind Chill Advisory: The combination of low temperatures and strong winds will result in wind chill readings of -20 degrees F or lower.


Wind Chill Warning: Wind chill temperatures of -35 degrees F or lower are expected. This is a life-threatening situation!