National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce

National Weather Service, Winter Weather Safety

Texas Road Conditions



Winter Weather Awareness


While not known for winter weather, West Central Texas does experience occasional impacts from hazardous winter precipitation events.  These weather events can range from a light glaze of freezing rain, to heavy snowfall, to blizzard conditions.  These events are relatively rare given the usual warmer climate but knowing how to prepare for winter weather in advance can save you from a potentially big headache!  Before deciding how to prepare for an event, it's important to understand the different types of winter weather warnings and advisories issued by the National Weather Service.  Some of the most likely warnings and advisories will be listed below.



Watches - Hazardous conditions are possible.  Maintain vigilance.
Blizzard Watch Conditions are favorable for blizzard conditions to be met in the next 12 to 48 hours. 
Winter Storm Watch Conditions are favorable for local winter storm criteria to be met within the next 12 to 48 hours. 
Wind Chill Watch Conditions are favorable for dangerous wind chill readings to occurr during the next 12 to 48 hours.
Warnings - These situations are potentially life-threatening
Blizzard Warning Bilzzard conditions are likely.  This means falling or blowing snow reducing visbilities to 1/4 mile or less and wind speeds of 35 mph for greater for at least 3 hours.
Winter Storm Warning Winter weather is expected to meet or exceed local criteria.  This includes heavy snow of 4 inches over a 12 hour period (6 inches in 24 hours) or 1/2 inch of sleet accumulation.  This may also include a combination of heavy snow, sleet and/or freezing rain.
Ice Storm Warning Freezing rain or drizzle is likely to result in ice accumulations of 1/4 inch or greater.
Wind Chill Warning Wind chill temperatures are expected to be less than or equal to -18 degrees Fahrenheit.
Advisories - If caution is exercised, these events should not threaten lives
Winter Weather Advisory Snow or sleet accumulations (or a combination of snow, ice and sleet) that are below warning criteria but may cause inconveniences in routine activies.
Freezing Rain Light accumulations of less than 1/4 inch of ice are expected from freezing rain or drizzle.
Wind Chill Advisory Wind chill temperatures are expected to be less than or equal to 0 degrees Fahrenheit.



Winter Deaths

Most winter storm fatalities are indirectly related to the storm.

Everyone is potentially at risk during winter storms. The actual threat to you depends on your specific situation. Recent observations indicate the following:

  • Related to ice and snow:
    • About 70% occur in automobiles.
    • About 25% are people caught out in the storm.
  • Related to exposure to cold:
    • 50% are people over 60 years old.
    • Over 75% are males.
    • About 20% occur in the home.


Preparing for Winter Weather

At home:

Have available:

  • Flashlight and extra batteries.
  • Battery-powered NOAA Weather Radio and portable radio to receive emergency information. These may be your only links to the outside.
  • Extra food and water. High energy food, such as dried fruit or candy, and food requiring no cooking or refrigeration is best.
  • Extra medicine and baby items.
  • First-aid supplies.
  • Heating fuel. Fuel carriers may not reach you for days after a severe winter storm.
  • Emergency heating source, such as a fireplace, wood stove, space heater, etc.
    • Learn to use properly to prevent a fire.
    • Have proper ventilation.
  • Fire extinguisher and smoke detector.
    • Test units regularly to ensure they are working properly.

In your vehicle:

Plan your travel and check the latest weather reports to avoid the storm!

  • Fully check and winterize your vehicle before the winter season begins.
    • blankets/sleeping bags;
    • flashlight with extra batteries;
    • first-aid kit;
    • knife;
    • high-calorie, non-perishable food;
    • extra clothing to keep dry;
    • a large empty can and plastic cover with tissues and paper towels for sanitary purposes;
    • a smaller can and water-proof matches to melt snow for drinking water;
    • sack of sand (or cat litter);
    • shovel;
    • windshield scraper and brush;
    • tool kit;
    • tow rope;
    • booster cables;
    • water container;
    • compass and road maps.
  • Keep your gas tank near full to avoid ice in the tank and fuel lines.
  • Try not to travel alone.
  • Let someone know your timetable and primary and alternate routes.

On the ranch:

  • Move animals to sheltered areas. Shelter belts, properly laid out and oriented, are better protection for cattle than confining shelters, such as sheds.
  • Have a water supply available. Most animal deaths in winter storms are from dehydration.