As the temperature dips and the snow falls it is important to understand how to stay safe. The National Weather Service monitors conditions and will issue Warnings, Watches or Advisories based on local criteria.
The National Weather Service (NWS) will issue a Winter Weather Advisory when snow, blowing snow, ice, sleet or a combination is expected but conditions should not be hazardous enough to meet warning criteria. The NWS said when one is issued people should be prepared for winter driving conditions and possible travel difficulties. Other advisories that may be issued from the NWS include freezing rain advisories, wind chill advisories and lake effect snow advisories. Read more about these advisories on the NWS website.
The National Weather Service could issue a variety of Winter Weather Watches. The NWS said these are Blizzard Watches, Wind Chill Watches and Lake Effect Snow Watches.The NWS said when one is issued people should be prepared to take action. Blizzard Watches are issued when there is a potential for falling and/or blowing snow with strong winds and extremely poor visibilities. Winter Storm Watches are issued when conditions are favorable for a significant winter storm event. Wind Chill Watches are issued when there is the potential for a combination of very cold air and strong winds to create dangerously low wind chill values. Lake Effect Snow Watches are issued when conditions are favorable for a lake effect snow event. A potential exists for heavy accumulation of lake-effect snow.
A Winter Weather Warning is issued when the weather event is in action. The NWS said a Blizzard Warning is issued when severe weather conditions are expected or occurring. In a blizzard there are frequent gusts greater to or equal to 35 mph. The gusts are accompanied with falling and/or blowing snow that frequently reduce visibility to less than 1/4 mile for three hours or more. When a blizzard is in effect, do not travel. If you must travel, have a winter survival kit with you. If you get stranded, stay with your vehicle and wait for help to arrive. A Winter Storm Warning are issued for significant winter weather event including snow, ice, sleet or blowing snow. Ice Storm warnings are issued for ice accumulation of around 1/4 inch or more. Wind Chill Warnings are issued for a combination of very cold air and strong winds. Lake Effect Snow Warnings are issued when widespread or localized lake induced snow squalls or heavy showers are expected to produce significant snowfall accumulation.
You can read about all the winter alerts that the NWS issues here.