Winter Weather Awareness Week: Watches, Warnings and Advisories

What do all the weather alerts mean?


The National Weather Service and the New York State Office of Emergency Management is promoting winter safety to all New Yorkers during Winter Weather Awareness week October 28 through November 3.

The National Weather Service will keep you informed of any hazardous weather threatening New York this upcoming winter season. Hazardous weather outlooks issued daily by your local office will highlight the potential for severe winter weather up to 7 days in advance of a storm.

If the chance of hazardous weather increases...a winter storm watch would be issued in advance of a storm. Watches are issued for the possibility of heavy snow, 7 inches or more in a 12 hour period (9 inches or more in a 24 hour period), for possible severe icing due to freezing rain, or for possible blizzard conditions defined as the dangerous combination of snow, blowing snow, and wind. A winter storm watch will also be issued for the potential of heavy lake effect snow generated by cold air moving across the great lakes. Lake effect snow usually occurs in narrow bands, affecting some areas and leaving nearby communities untouched.

Winter storm warnings are issued when there is a high probability of heavy snow, severe icing of one half inch or more, or the combination of heavy snow, sleet, or freezing rain within the next 48 hours or so. Lake effect snow warnings usually pinpoint the location of the localized heavy snow while blizzard warnings, the most dangerous of winter storms, are issued for widespread, blinding snowstorms.

Winter weather advisories are issued for winter weather conditions which pose a significant inconvenience but are not normally consider life threatening if the proper precautions are taken. Advisories may be issued for between 4 and 6 inches of snow, for freezing drizzle or light freezing rain, for blowing or drifting snow, or for dense fog. The greatest hazard is often to motorists and pedestrians.

For extremely cold and windy weather, your National Weather Service will issue wind chill warnings for equivalent wind chill temperatures of minus 25 degrees or lower except minus 30 degrees or lower in North Country counties of Jefferson and Lewis. Wind chill advisories will inform you of equivalent wind chill readings of minus 15 degrees (minus 20 degrees in Jefferson and Lewis counties).

A high wind warning is issued when sustained winds are expected to reach 40 miles an hour or if wind gusts reach 58 miles an hour. A wind advisory is issued for sustained winds from 31 to 39 miles an hour or for wind gusts of 46 to 57 miles an hour.

You can always rely on NOAA weather radio, the voice of the National Weather Service, or NewsChannel 9 for the latest forecasts, warnings and statements this winter as well as throughout the year.

More Stories

Latest News

Video Center