Winter Weather Awareness Week Day 2: Terms and Definitions

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Winter Weather Awareness Week continues throughout Central Pennsylvania. The goal is to remind the public of important weather and safety information, so that they can prepare for another season. Today’s topic is terms and definitions.


Central Pennsylvania experiences various types of winter weather each season. Anything from snow, sleet, and freezing rain to extreme cold are possible each season. The National Weather Service issues different types of watches, warnings, and advisories to alert the public. Broadcast Meteorologists, like the FOX43 Weather Smart Team, help communicate and spread the word. The alerts help prepare us and keep us safe. Many times, they can cause some confusion. Today’s topic helps clear that up before inclement weather arrives!


There are three types of alerts you may hear through the season: watches, warnings, and advisories. A watch simply means that there is the possibility of a system bringing hazardous winter weather. They are routinely issued 24 to 72 hours prior to a storm. If the storm does not materialize as the projected event comes closer in time, the watch may be dropped. A warning states that hazardous winter weather conditions are imminent or already occurring. An advisory is used for less serious weather conditions. If you were to exercise extreme caution, usually there is no major threat to life and property.


GFX2There are a number of winter weather watches Central Pennsylvania hears every season. A Winter Storm Watch tells us there’s a possibility of heavy snow, heavy freezing rain and/or heavy sleet. A Blizzard Watch means blizzard conditions are possible in the watch area. Blizzard criteria include gusty winds of 35mph or more and visibilities less than a quarter of a mile, all for three consecutive hours.


GFX3Several winter weather warnings are used during the cold months. The most familiar is likely the Winter Storm Warning. It is issued when hazardous weather in the form of heavy snow, heavy freezing rain and/or heavy sleet are occurring or imminent. The same idea applies to a Blizzard Warning. Blizzard conditions are expected or already occurring. An Ice Storm Warning is issued when significant ice accumulations are expected. These accumulations occur on trees, power lines, and roadways, thus creating dangerous conditions. A Wind Chill Warning is issued when hazardous wind chill values are expected to be hazardous to life within several minutes of exposure. This usually occurs at temperatures below minus 25 degrees Fahrenheit.


GFX4There are many advisories that bring attention to less serious winter weather threats. A Winter Weather Advisory is issued when small accumulations of snow and/or sleet and freezing rain are expected. A Freezing Rain Advisory is issued for any small accumulation of ice from freezing rain or freezing drizzle. A Wind Chill Advisory is issued when wind chill temperatures can be hazardous with prolonged exposure.


With these refreshers, stay prepared! The FOX43 Weather Smart Team will keep you updated during the months ahead! You can also find more winter weather information at the State College NWS website.


Stay safe this winter!



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