Winter weather terms

The National Weather Service uses the terms below to convey the weather threat to the public.

• Winter Storm Watch: Issued for potentially significant winter weather, including heavy snow, ice, sleet, and/or blowing snow within the next day or two. Now is the time to prepare!

• Winter Storm Warning: Indicates heavy snow, blowing snow, sleet or a combination of winter weather hazards are expected to cause a significant impact to life or property. Stay indoors and adjust travel plans.

• Blizzard Warning: Strong winds (35 mph or greater) will produce blinding snow and near zero visibility, resulting in potentially life-threatening conditions– particularly for travelers. Blizzards can occur with minimal accumulations of snow.

• Ice Storm Warning: Heavy accumulations of ice are expected to cause a significant impact to life or property, resulting in hazardous travel conditions, tree damage and extended power outages.

• Winter Weather Advisory: Snow, blowing snow, ice or sleet is expected to produce potentially dangerous travel conditions in the next 12 to 36 hours.

• Wind Chill Warning: Life-threatening wind chills of minus 25 degrees or colder.

• Wind Chill Advisory: Dangerous wind chills of minus 15 degrees to minus 24 degrees.

• Freezing Rain: Precipitation that falls from the clouds as rain, but freezes into a glaze of ice on ground based objects like trees and power lines.

• Sleet: Small pellets of ice created by frozen raindrops. Sleet bounces when hitting a surface and does not stick to objects.

• Wind Chill: A calculation of how cold it feels outside when the effects of temperature and wind speed are combined. Wind chill ONLY applies to bare, human skin.

During winter storms and extreme cold, follow these guidelines when at home or venturing outside.

• Stay indoors in a heated room.

• Hang blankets over windows at night, but let the sun shine in during the day. Cover cracks around doors with rugs, newspapers, towels or other such material.

• When using alternative heat from a fireplace, wood stove, or space heater, use safeguards and ensure proper ventilation to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.

• If your water pipes freeze: Shut off water at the main source. Call a plumber and contact your insurance agent. Never try to thaw a frozen pipe with an open flame or torch. Be aware of the potential for electric shock near standing water.

Avoid overexertion, such as shoveling heavy snow, pushing a car or walking in deep snow. These situations could cause a heart attack – a major cause of death in the winter. If you become stranded outdoors, seek shelter to stay dry. Cover all exposed body parts.

Watch for signs of frostbite and hypothermia. Frostbite is a severe reaction to cold exposure of the skin that can permanently damage fingers, toes, and the nose. Symptoms are numbness and a pale appearance to the skin. Seek medical help immediately.

Hypothermia, or low body temperature, is a life-threatening condition brought on when the body temperature falls below 95 degrees. Symptoms include slow or slurred speech, incoherence, memory loss, disorientation,
and drowsiness. Seek help.

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