Watch, Warning Or Advisory?

What Do They Mean?

POSTED: 09:43 PM MDT Jun 03, 2012    UPDATED: 12:56 AM MDT Oct 19, 2010 
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE -

Are you ready for winter weather?

A goal of the National Weather Service is to provide information on winter storms, with enough advance notice to allow the whole community to take actions needed to prepare for and deal with adverse and sometimes dangerous weather conditions. As the threat of severe winter weather draws closer, and the confidence in the location and timing of the event increases, the National Weather Service will issue various bulletins that become increasingly more specific. Here is what these bulletins mean, and what precautions you should take:

NOAA's National Weather Service uses a four-tier approach to alert the public for the potential for severe weather or high fire danger. This four-tier approach consists of outlooks, advisories, watches and warnings.

1) Winter Storm Outlook A winter storm outlook is issued when conditions are favorable for hazardous winter weather to develop within the next 3 to 7 days. It is intended for those groups that require considerable lead time to prepare for the event.

2) Winter Storm Watch A winter storm watch is issued when the risk of hazardous winter weather has increased, but occurrence, location and timing is still somewhat uncertain. Generally, a watch is issued when there is a significant threat of severe winter weather in the next 12 to 48 hours.

3) Winter Weather Advisory Winter weather advisories are issued for less serious winter weather conditions that are occurring, or have a high likelihood of occurring. These products are used for winter weather situations that are less severe than a Warning, but will cause significant inconvenience. These situations should not be life threatening, damage is usually localized and the main danger is hazardous travel.

4) Winter Storm Warning A winter storm warning is issued when a hazardous winter weather event is occurring, imminent, or has a very high probability of occurrence. Warning products are used for conditions that pose a threat to life or property. Winter Storm warnings are issued for several types of hazardous winter weather, including heavy snow, sleet, or a combination of snow and wind.

5) Ice Storm Warning An ice storm warning is issued when freezing rain will accumulate at a rate that causes a coating of ice that will make outdoor activities dangerous. Tree limbs and power lines fall under the weight of the ice. These conditions are fairly rare but, when they occur, can be especially dangerous.

6) Blizzard Warning Blizzard warnings are issued when:

7) Dangerous Wind Chill Warning Wind chill warnings are issued when the Wind chill of -20 degrees or colder are expected or occurring and:

LINK: Wind Chill Chart

8) Avalanche Warning Avalanche warnings are issued by the Northwest Avalanche Forecast Center, located in Seattle. These products are issued when there is a significant threat of avalanches in the Cascades and Olympics backcountry, possibly affecting mountain roadways and other high country interests. (For more info, see the NW Avalanche Center's website)