What is a Winter Storm Warning, Advisory, and Watch?

Local National Weather Service works for the betterment of people by providing them with information regarding hazards and dangerous conditions of weather. The offices provide warnings to dwellers of various regions related to winter storm Warnings. 

Among the warnings, Watches, and Advisories are included as well.  The amount of snow in certain and specific regions or other such natural hazards becomes the basis of a winter storm warning. 

The local area offices know the region and its diversities well enough to issue Warnings, Watches, and Advisories. For some seconds or instances, the Northern Plains have a higher snow range to issue warnings rather than the Southeast Plains. 

The Warnings suggest one should start taking quick action as the danger is imminent. Whereas, Watches indicate that one should be prepared for natural dangers, as there are chances for hazards to arise and Advisories suggest that one should be aware. 

What are the Basic Terms of the Winter Storm Warning?

Fundamental concepts of winter storm warning are;

Freezing Rain

What are the Basic Terms of the Winter Storm Warning? | Freezing Rain

When rain having low temperatures hits the ground, the water transforms into ice on the ground. Ice rain or freezing rain develops a coating of ice everywhere.

The coating of ice on objects exposed to freezing rain has a layer of ice on them. 


Sleet is a type of rain that turns into ice pellets before reaching the ground, turning the roads slippery by freezing them. Hence, many accidents can happen on such slippery tracks. 

Wind Chill

Wind chill is the measure of coldness felt by someone when there are ongoing chilly winds and freezing temperatures. The combined effect of wind and winter weather causes heat loss from the exposed skin. The rate of heat loss in this condition calculates the Wind Chill Index. 

When the wind speed increases in winter due to chilly weather, the body begins to lose heat rapidly and the body becomes cold. With such extreme external temperature, the internal temperature also fluctuates from the normal temperature(37 degrees Celsius). 

Due to the dropping of internal temperature, there are risks of hypothermia. Likewise, animals and plants also suffer from the impacts of wind chill. Inanimate objects become unusually freezing or chill. 

The objects don’t have much impact other than that or don’t deteriorate due to cold temperatures. This doesn’t affect them at all severely like living beings (plants, animals, and humans).

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What’s the Difference Between Warnings, Advisories, and Watches?

What's the Difference Between Warnings, Advisories, and Watches?

In advance of 24 hours, a winter storm warning is issued, indicating a hazardous weather event in winter has a 50% chance of occurring. However, its occurrence, location, and timing are uncertain when warnings are issued. 

The operators intend to alert the masses ahead of time, so they can evacuate safely or take precautionary measures within the given duration. Rarely, a Blizzard Watch may be issued instead of a warning according to the severity of the situation. 

When winter hazards are imminent, the watches become intensive. An advisory is provided in such conditions predicting an 80% chance of the incident occurring. Such a warning asserts that the condition will pose a serious threat to life or property, and traveling will become some sort of dangerous in such circumstances.

An Advisory is a high-level hazard warning indicating that masses will feel considerable inconvenience. Being careful is best in such conditions as it helps to avoid getting entangled in risky situations. The hazards could lead to life-threatening or property-damaging situations.

The office issues three types of warnings;

Winter Storm Warning

A winter storm warning is usually for expecting 6 inches of heavy snow in the next 12 hours, or 8 inches in the upcoming 24 hours. This is usually administered publically when sleet expansion reaches half an inch.

Ice Storm Warning 

An ice storm warning provides information about ice accumulation. Usually, it’s measured after it exceeds ¼ inch.

Blizzard Warning 

Blizzard Warning 

A Blizzard warning denotes low visibility blizzard conditions in the atmosphere. Normally, they are verified when it surpasses ¼ mile. These conditions occur due to falling or blowing snow, and 35 mph winds for at least 3 hours.

Freezing Rain Advisory

A freezing rain advisory is based on when ¼ inch of ice rain is expected.

Winter Weather Advisory 

A winter weather advisory indicates;

  • 3 to 5 inches of snow in the upcoming 12 hours
  • Sleet accumulation up to ¼ inch
  • Freezing rain blends with sleet, snow, or blowing snow, and a winter weather advisory is administered

If there’s any confusion about what is a winter storm warning, advisory, and watch, ask away in the comments. 

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Linta Rizwan

Linta Rizwan loves reading books, articles, research papers, and news journals. The person who reads a lot also manifests their ideas in writing. Hence, that's how my passion for writing started, and I started working as a Freelance Content Writer in 2021. My field of English Literature and passion for sharing information also helped me in rendering my devotion to my profession. Besides that, I like to engage in sketching and taking part in various discussion forums and curricular clubs.

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