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Frequently Asked Questions about Winter Weatheroutreach, education and frequently asked winter weather questions and answersoutreach, education and frequently asked winter weather questions and answers

+A major winter storm is moving up the East Coast. How is it monitored and forecast?

+Winter weather Watches, Warnings and Advisories: What do they all mean?

  • Winter Storm Watch: A watch means that severe winter conditions, such as heavy snow or ice, may affect your area, but where, when and how much is still uncertain. NWS issues a watch to provide 12 to 36 hours notice of possible severe winter weather. A watch is intended to provide enough lead time for you to prepare.
  • Winter Storm Warning NWS issues a warning when its scientists forecast a significant winter weather event including snow, ice, sleet, or blowing snow, or a combination of these hazards that exceed locally defined criteria.
  • Winter Weather Advisories inform you that winter weather conditions are expected to cause significant inconveniences that may be hazardous. If caution is exercised, advisory situations should not become life-threatening.
  • Blizzard Warning let you know that snow and strong winds will combine to produce a blinding snow (near zero visibility), deep drifts, and life-threatening wind chill.

Be sure to listen carefully to the radio, television and NOAA Weather Radio for the latest winter storm watches, warnings, and advisories.

+Why is predicting the exact amount of snowfall so challenging?

Snow forecasts continue to improve, but they remain a challenging task for meteorologists. Heavy snow often falls in small bands that are hard to discern on larger resolution computer models. In addition, extremely small temperature differences define the boundary line between rain and snow. 

+Will the approaching storm bring heavy snowfall to your area??

Each winter, NWS meteorologists issue winter weather warnings and forecasts and monitor weather data from across the nation for developing areas of heavy snow and freezing precipitation. NCEP's Weather Prediction Center (WPC) and the NWS Weather Forecast Office (WFO) in your area provide critical guidance, warnings and forecasts for the protection of life and property. The NWS Storm Prediction Center provides smaller, more targeted information for rapidly approaching intense, heavy winter precipitation. NWS provides this information to the public, private sector meteorologists and state and local governments. For additional information on whether your area is going to be impacted by heavy snow or other winter weather, visit the WPC's Winter Weather Forecasts or

+Are you prepared for winter weather?

Winter weather too often catches people unprepared. Researchers say that 70 percent of the fatalities related to ice and snow occur in automobiles, and about 25 percent of all winter related fatalities are people that are caught off guard, out in the storm. What winter weather preparations are being made in your area, and what are the appropriate steps to take that will ensure your winter weather safety? Help your readers, viewers and listeners make sure their homes and cars are ready for the worst winter has to offer.

+How can I get the latest winter weather information?

A great way to keep ahead of a winter storm is with NOAA Weather Radio (NWR), a small receiver device that can be purchased at many electronic stores. As the "Voice of the National Weather Service," it provides continuous broadcasts of the latest weather information from local National Weather Service offices. The NWR network has more than 425 stations, covering all 50 states, adjacent coastal waters, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and U.S. Pacific Territories. Weather radios come in many sizes, with a variety of functions and costs. The NWR network has been further advanced by the implementation of Specific Area Message Encoding (SAME) technology. The SAME allows the user to receive warnings only for their specific location. SAME receivers are a live-saving tool, providing audible alert tones for any weather warnings. A NOAA Weather Radio is a useful and potentially life-saving gift idea this holiday season. 

+What is wind chill?

One of the gravest dangers of winter weather is wind chill. The wind chill is based on the rate of heat loss from exposed skin by combined effects of wind and cold. As the wind increases, heat is carried away from the body at an accelerated rate, driving down the body temperature. Animals are also effected by wind chill. Check out the Wind Chill chart.