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Winter Weather Terms Guide

  • Freezing Rain:  Rain that freezes when it hits the ground, creating a coating of ice on roads, walkways, trees, and power lines.
  • Sleet Rain:  Rain that turns to ice pellets before reaching the ground. Sleet also causes moisture on roads to freeze and become slippery.
  • Winter Storm Watch:   A winter storm is possible in your area. Tune in to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio, or television for more information.
  • Winter Storm Warning:   A winter storm is occurring or will soon occur in your area.
  • Blizzard Warning:   Sustained winds or frequent gusts to 35 miles per hour or greater and considerable amounts of falling or blowing snow (reducing visibility to less than a quarter mile) are expected to prevail for a period of three hours or longer.
  • Frost/Freeze Warning:   Below freezing temperatures are expected.
  • Advisory:  An advisory is a "heads-up" that conditions are likely for dangerous weather. Advisories are issued when weather conditions will cause a significant inconvenience and, if ignored, could lead to hazardous consequences.
  • Watch: A watch is stronger than an advisory. It tells you that hazardous weather is likely in the next 12-48 hours. Watches are issued to give you time to prepare and plan for weather threats. When a watch is issued, it's prudent to listen to NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards and check the forecast frequently at NOAA's National Weather Service Web site.

Where to Get Weather Information

Local Media
Media's weather departments provide weather forecasts and broadcast National Weather Service products.

NOAA Weather Radio
Provides 24-hour forecasts of watch, warning and advisory products.

The Internet provides access to all National Weather Service products and related items

Winter Weather

Spring/Summer Weather Preparedness: Important Weather Terms

  • Watch: Severe weather is possible within the designated watch area. Be alert!
  • Warning: Severe weather has been reported or is imminent. Take necessary precautions.
  • Severe Weather Preparedness Guide

Spring/Summer Weather

Tornado Safety Rules

  • In Homes - the basement offers the greatest safety. Seek shelter under sturdy furniture if possible. In homes without basements, take cover in the center part of the house, on the lowest floor, in a small room such as a closet or bathroom, or under sturdy furniture. Keep away from windows.
  • In Shopping Centers - go to a designated shelter area (not to your parked car).
  • In Office Buildings - go to an interior hallway on the lowest floor, or to the designated shelter area.
  • In Schools - follow advance plans to a designated shelter area, usually an interior hallway on the lowest floor. If the building is not of reinforced construction, go to a heavy one that is, or take cover outside on low, protected ground. Stay out of auditoriums, gymnasiums, and other structures with wide, free-span roofs.
  • In Automobiles - leave your car and seek shelter in a substantial nearby building, or lie flat in the nearest ditch or ravine.
  • In Open Country - lie flat in the nearest ditch or ravine.
  • Mobile Homes - are particularly vulnerable and should be evacuated. Trailer parks should have a community storm shelter and a warden to monitor broadcasts throughout the severe storm emergency. If there is no shelter nearby, leave the trailer and take cover on low, protected ground.

Flash Flood Safety Rules

Flash flood waves, at incredible speeds, can roll boulders, tear out trees, destroy buildings and bridges, and scour out new channels. Killing walls of water can reach heights of 10 to 20 feet. You won't always have warning that these deadly sudden floods are coming.

When a flash flood warning is issued for your area or the moment you first realize that a flash flood is imminent, act quickly to save yourself. You may have only seconds.

  • Go to high ground immediately.
  • Get out of areas subject to flooding. This includes dips, low spots, canyons, washes, etc.
  • Avoid already flooded and high velocity flow areas. Do not attempt to cross a flowing stream on foot where water is above your knees.
  • Do not drive through flooded areas. Shallow, swiftly flowing water can wash a car from a roadway. Also, the roadbed may not be intact under the water.
  • If the vehicle stalls, abandon it immediately and seek higher ground - rapidly rising water may engulf the vehicle and its occupants and sweep them away.
  • Be especially cautious at night when it is harder to recognize flood dangers.
  • Do not camp or park your vehicle along streams and washes, particularly during threatening conditions.

Thunderstorm/Lightning Safety Rules

If you plan to be outdoors, check the latest weather forecast and keep a weather eye on the sky. At signs of an impending storm - towering thunderheads, darkening skies, lightning, increasing wind - tune in your NOAA Weather Radio, AM-FM radio, or television for the latest weather information.

When a thunderstorm threatens, get inside a home, a large building, or an all-metal (not convertible) automobile. Do not use the telephone except for emergencies.

If you are caught outside, do not stand underneath a tall isolated tree or telephone pole. Avoid projecting above the surrounding landscape. For example, don't stand on a hilltop. In a forest, seek shelter in a low area under a thick growth of small trees. In open areas, go to a low place, such as a ravine or valley.

Get off or away from open water, tractors, and other metal farm equipment or small metal vehicles, such as motorcycles, bicycles, golf carts, etc. Put down golf clubs and take off golf shoes. Stay away from wire fences, clotheslines, metal pipes, and rails. If you are in a group in the open, spread out, keeping people several yards apart.

Remember - lightning may strike some miles from the parent cloud. Precautions should be taken even though the thunderstorm is not directly overhead. If you are caught in a level field or prairie far from shelter and if you feel your hair stand on end, lightning may be about to strike you. Drop to your knees and bend forward, putting your hands on your knees. Do not lie flat on the ground.