Winter weather alerts explained - 13abc.com Toledo (OH) News, Weather and Sports

Winter weather alerts explained

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TOLEDO, Ohio -

We've had plenty of active weather the past few weeks.  Often these storms come accompanied with weather alerts.  These are issued by the National Weather Service (occasionally by the Storm Prediction Center, as well, though they are part of the NWS).

There are numerous types and colors of advisories, watches and warnings.  We'll never see many of these in our area but we wanted to refresh your memory on some of the common winter-time alerts. 

A Winter Weather Advisory comes in a blue-gray color.  This one has a lot of discretion for the forecasters who send it out.  It's often issued for a combination of snow, ice, sleet, freezing rain, etc.  For snow, it's often for prolonged storm events. Generally, it's for storms that bring less than seven inches of snow in a day.  The Advisory is the lowest-ranked of the three.

A Winter Storm Watch is more of a teal blue and gray combination.  The Watch is issued farther in advance, to give people time to prepare for an incoming storm.  For our case, that's why we've seen Watches issue far out before our past two snow events.  This is the medium category and often leads up to a Winter Storm Warning being issued.

The Winter Storm Warning is generally for the potential for seven inches of snow within a 24-hour period.  It's color is hot pink, so it's easily identifiable.  It's the top-end for these alerts and doesn't come all that often to northwest Ohio.  You may be wondering why a Warning was not issued for the last storm when many areas saw 10"+ of snow.  That was a technical decision made because it was a lengthy storm.  Even though 10 inches of snow fell, there wasn't seven inches on a single day.  That storm was spread out over 45 hours, while our weekend storm will mostly fall on Sunday.

As for Blizzard Warnings, that's a VERY specific definition.  Here's a copy of what the Weather Service says:

Issued for winter storms with sustained or frequent winds of 35 mph or higher with considerable falling and/or blowing snow that frequently reduces visibility to 1/4 of a mile or less. These conditions are expected to prevail for a minimum of 3 hours.

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