Winter Advisories, Watches, And Warnings Explained | WNYT.com

Winter Advisories, Watches, And Warnings Explained

Winter Advisories, Watches, And Warnings Explained

Reid Kisselback
Updated: November 02, 2020 12:24 PM
Created: November 02, 2020 11:58 AM

As we head closer to the winter season, it's a good idea to review and know the difference between winter weather advisories, watches and warnings. Here's the critera the National Weather Service uses for a Winter Weather Advisory, a Winter Storm Watch, and a Winter Storm Warning to be issued.

Winter Weather Advisory

A Winter Weather Advisory is issued for any amount of freezing rain, or when 2 to 4 inches of snow (alone or in combination with sleet and freezing rain), is expected to cause a significant inconvenience(i.e. power outages, hazardous driving condtions, etc.), but not serious enough to warrant a warning.

For example, if the event is expected to impact the Baltimore/Washington metro areas during rush hours (4-9 am or 2-7 pm on weekdays) forecasted snow totals of one inch will necessitate the issuance of a winter weather advisory. 

A Winter Weather Advisory is highlighted by the color purple on weather maps.

Winter Storm Watch

A Winter Storm Watch is issued when there is the potential for significant and hazardous winter weather within 48 hours. It DOES NOT mean that significant and hazardous winter weather will happen, it only means it is POSSIBLE.

Significant and hazardous winter weather is defined as a combination of:
1)  5 inches or more of snow/sleet within a 12-hour period or 7 inches or more of snow/sleet within a 24-hour period

AND/OR
2)  Enough ice accumulation to cause damage to trees or powerlines.

AND/OR
3)  a life threatening or damaging combination of snow and/or ice accumulation with wind.

A Winter Storm Watch is highlighted by the greenish blue color on weather maps.

Winter Storm Warning

A Winter Storm Warning is issued when a significant combination of hazardous winter weather is occurring or imminent.

Significant and hazardous winter weather is defined as a combination of:
1)  5 inches or more of snow/sleet within a 12-hour period or 7 inches or more of snow/sleet within a 24-hour period
AND/OR
2)  Enough ice accumulation to cause damage to trees or powerlines.
AND/OR
3)  a life threatening or damaging combination of snow and/or ice accumulation with wind.

A Winter Storm Warning is highlighted with the color pink on weather maps.


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