Know the differences in winter storm notices head of frigid weather

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As the temperatures dip, your phone is sure to send you notifications about pending winter weather. But do you know the differences in the notices you see?


Even when temperatures seem warm, chilly weather might be on the horizon. The National Weather Service (NWS) issues storm advisories when conditions for winter weather are expected, but shouldn’t get bad enough to warrant a watch or warning.  These include advisories for winter weather, freezing rain, wind chill and lake effect snow.

When an advisory is issued, the NWS recommends that people be prepared for worsening conditions and make sure their winter toolkits are prepared.


When there is a potential for a winter weather system to produce heavy snow, sleet or freezing rain and cause significant impacts, the NWS issues a winter storm watch. This could include a watch for a blizzard, winter storm, wind chill or lake effect snow.

Blizzard warnings are issued when there is potential for falling and/or blowing snow with strong winds and poor visibility. Winter storm watches are issued when there is potential for a significant winter storm event. Wind chill watches are issued when there is potential for combined cold air and strong wind. Lake effect snow watches are issued when conditions are favorable for a lake effect snow event.

During a watch, the NWS says people should check the forecast often and make sure their loved ones are prepared if dangerous weather should occur.


The NWS issues winter storm warnings when a weather system is expected to produce heavy snow, sleet or ice. This includes warnings for Blizzards, winter storms, ice storms, wind chill and lake effect snow.

During a warning, people shouldn’t travel unless absolutely necessary. If people need to travel, they should follow tips for traveling through the storm. If people get stranded, they should stay with their vehicle and wait for help to arrive.

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