3 Winter Storm Definitions
A winter storm can range from moderate snow over a few hours to blizzard conditions with blinding wind-driven snow that lasts several days. All winter storms make driving and walking extremely hazardous.
Storm effects such as extreme cold, flooding and snow accumulation can cause hazardous conditions and hidden problems for people in the affected area.
Turn to the National Weather Service for up-to-date reports on the conditions in your local area.
The following information is a brief summary of winter storm conditions.
- Blizzards are accompanied by low temperatures and blowing snow, which can severely reduce visibility.
- A severe winter storm is one that drops four or more inches of snow during a 12-hour period or six or more inches during a 24-hour time span.
- An ice storm occurs when freezing rain falls from the clouds and freezes immediately on impact.
Winter Storm Warning Terms
Know the terms used by weather forecasters so that you clearly understand the risk to your family and your community.
- A Winter Storm Watch means a winter storm is possible in your area within the next day or two.
- A Winter Storm Warning means a winter storm is headed for your area, with severe weather conditions beginning or about to begin.
- A Blizzard Warning means heavy snow and strong winds will are expected to produce snow, near zero visibility, deep drifts and life-threatening wind chill. Seek shelter immediately!
- A Winter Weather Advisory means cold, ice and snow are expected to cause significant inconveniences and may be hazardous. The greatest hazard is often to motorists who get stuck on the road in these conditions.
- A Frost/Freeze Warning means temperatures are expected to be below freezing and may cause significant damage to plants, crops or fruit trees.
- Freezing Rain is rain that freezes when it hits the ground.
- Sleet is rain that turns to ice pellets before reaching the ground.
Download the Red Cross Emergency app to monitor more than 35 different severe weather and emergency alerts.