Winter Weather Preparedness Week: Alert terms to know


FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — Indiana’s Winter Weather Preparedness Week runs from November 7-13. It’s the perfect time to brush up on alert terms you need to know before the flakes and winter precipitation start to fall.

When it comes to winter weather there are three alerts that are issued for our area on a pretty regular basis.
Winter Storm Watch, Winter Storm Warning, and Advisories.

A Winter Storm Watch is issued by the National Weather Service (NWS) 1 to 3 days in advance of a blizzard, heavy snow, freezing rain, or sleet. When a Winter Storm Watch is issued it means the ingredients are there for winter impacts but not currently happening. So make sure to keep an eye on the forecast and start planning.

A Winter Storm Warning is issued when those same threats are imminent or occurring, usually 12 to 24 hours prior to the onset of the event. A Winter Storm Warning usually means several inches of snow are on the way, generally over 6″ in 12 hours or 8″ in 24 hours. When a Winter Storm Warning is issued there WILL be significant impacts to travel.

The last one is an Advisory, which is issued for winter events that are hazardous but not quite severe enough to reach warning status. That being said just a dusting to a couple of inches of snow can be enough to cause dangerous travel conditions. As always when snow is flying use caution on the roads and slow down.

While not issued often Blizzards and Ice Storm Warnings are some of the most impactful winter weather events we can experience.

The NWS criteria for a Blizzard Warning requires wind gusts above 35 mph, that when combined with snow reduce visibility to a quarter-mile or less with blowing or drifting snow for 3 hours or longer. The key part of that is the length of time, 3 hours. There can still be dangerous conditions with blowing snow and gusty winds but it only becomes a blizzard when those conditions are experienced for a prolonged period of time.

Ice Storms are a little simpler, Ice Storm Warnings are only issued when ice accumulations of 0.25″ or more are expected. That’s the point where we could see downed branches and power lines due to the weight of built-up ice. In addition to the very dangerous road conditions.

Now we have yet to really see winter weather impact our area this fall and that’s fairly normal. Typically we experience our first measurable snow of a tenth of an inch or more around November 14. The latest we have had our first snow in Fort Wayne was December 23, 2001.

You can turn on notifications for the winter weather alerts on the WANE Wx App.

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