Winter Weather Terms

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 Winter Weather Advisory Terminology
 Winter Weather Warning Terminology

Outlook: An outlook is used to indicate that a hazardous weather event may develop. It is intended to provide information to those who need considerable lead time to prepare for the event.

Winter Storm Watch: A watch is used when the risk of a hazardous weather event has increased significantly, but its occurrence, locations, and/or timing is still uncertain. It is intended to provide enough lead time so those who need to set their plans in motion can do so.

Winter Storm Warning/Advisory: These products are issued when a hazardous weather event is occurring, is imminent, or has a high probability of occurrence. A warning is used for conditions posing a threat to life or property. Advisories are for less serious conditions that cause significant inconvenience and, if caution is not exercised, could lead to situations that may threaten life and/or property.

Severe winter weather conditions that may cause a warning to be issued are:

  • heavy snow of 4 inches or more falling within a 12 hour period.
  • damaging accumulations of freezing rain and/or drizzle.
  • accumulations of heavy sleet
  • blizzard conditions

Less serious conditions that may result in an advisory are:

Snow Advisory: Snow amounts between 1 and 3 inches.

Dense Fog Advisory: visibilities at or below 1/4 mile.

Wind Chill Advisory: wind chill temperatures of  -20 degrees or colder.

Freezing Rain/Drizzle Advisory: accumulations making road surfaces, sidewalks, etc. hazardous.

Blowing/Drifting Snow: visibilities intermittently at/or below 1/4 mile.

All winter weather terms will be highlighted in the text of the forecast and in follow-up statements throughout the life of the event. is the U.S. government's official web portal to all federal, state and local government web resources and services.