Deciphering winter weather warnings

WOWT 6 News Live at 6:30
Published: Nov. 4, 2021 at 7:06 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Although we have beautiful weather on tap for this upcoming weekend, winter conditions will be here before we know it. Today we have a quick refresher on some winter weather terms you need to know for the coming season.

When winter weather is on the way, it’s important to keep up to date with the latest winter weather watches and warnings so you know what to expect. Often the first alert for an impending winter storm is the winter storm watch. The national weather service will issue a winter storm watch up to 2 days ahead of a potential storm. A watch means that significant winter weather is possible, and you should prepare for disruptions in the days ahead.

Winter Storm Watch
Winter Storm Watch(WOWT)

A Winter Storm Warning will be issued when significant winter weather is likely, or about to begin. A warning means to expect at least 6 inches of snow, or a combination of disruptive ice, sleet, and snow. Expect disruptions to everyday activities through the duration of the warning.

Winter Storm Warning
Winter Storm Warning(WOWT)

In extreme events, a blizzard warning may be issued. While a blizzard is a significant winter event, it does not require significant snow amounts. Blizzard warnings are issued when strong winds and blowing snow are expected to produce visibility less than one-quarter mile for at least 3 hours.

Blizzard Warning Definition
Blizzard Warning Definition(WOWT)

A relatively new alert that you may see this winter is a Snow Squall Warning. Snow Squalls have a very sudden onset with heavy snow and gusty winds, potentially producing blizzard-like conditions. Travel conditions can quickly deteriorate and potentially become life-threatening. Some of the largest traffic pile-ups in winter happen due to snow squalls. A snow squall warning will only be issued for a short time, typically less than 2 hours. If one of these warnings is issued, you will receive an emergency alert on your smartphone, similar to a tornado warning. Consider delaying any travel, or slow down and use extra caution if already on the road.

Snow Squall Warning
Snow Squall Warning(WOWT)

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