2017 Winter Weather Preparedness Week – Day One: Winter Weather Basics

The National Weather Service in Taunton scheduled Winter Weather Preparedness Week for this week, Monday through Friday. The storm kind of messed things up, though, and they have published incomplete information – only yesterday evening posting full details for emergency managers and other interested parties.

With that in mind, I will be running each day’s preparedness message each morning from today (Wednesday, November 1) to Sunday (November 5). Also, this is a handy reminder that we fall back by an hour with the time change Sunday morning.

Today’s topic is Winter Weather Basics.

For those who live in New England, winter weather is a part of life from November through March. Snow, sleet, freezing rain, cold temperatures and cold wind chill temperatures will be common occurrences soon. While most of the time these weather elements are only a nuisance to our daily routines, at times they can produce hazardous or life-threatening situations for those who are not prepared.

To alert the public to potentially dangerous winter weather events or situations, The National Weather Service issues Outlooks, Watches, Warnings and Advisories. You should keep the following general definitions in mind.
Outlook: A Hazardous Weather Outlook is issued daily by National Weather Service offices across the country to alert the public to the potential for any hazardous weather during the next 7 days, including significant winter storms, high wind, coastal flooding, and extreme temperatures. Due to the uncertainty in predicting the strength and path of a winter storm more than several days in advance, the exact impact on the area (if any) will not be known. In addition, National Weather Service offices may issue Special Weather Statements highlighting the potential impact of a major winter storm. NWS product – Hazardous Weather Outlook.
Watch: Watches are issued to alert the public that dangerous winter conditions are possible within the next 24 to 48 hours, when forecaster confidence reaches 50 percent. Products include: Winter Storm Watches, High Wind Watches, and Coastal Flood Watches.
Warning: Warnings are issued to alert the public that dangerous winter conditions are likely to occur within the next 36 hours or are occurring. Forecaster confidence has to reach 80 percent or higher. Products include, Winter Storm Warning, Ice Storm Warning, Blizzard Warning, High Wind Warning, Wind Chill Warning, and Coastal Flood Warning.
Advisory: Advisories are issued to alert the public that winter conditions are expected to cause a significant inconvenience and may be hazardous. If caution is exercised, these situations should not be life- threatening. Products include, Winter Weather Advisory, Wind Advisory and Wind Chill Advisory.
Specific thresholds for Advisories, Watches, and Warnings vary by State. They can be found at: http://www.weather.gov/box/warningcriteria.shtml
Also, for 2017-18, the National Weather Service is implementing a Hazard Simplification for winter weather products. The Freezing Rain Advisory will be consolidated into the Winter Weather Advisory product and the Blizzard Watch will be consolidated into the Winter Storm Watch. Note that Ice Storm Warnings and Blizzard Warnings will continue to be issued. (The Lake Effect Snow Warning, Watch, and Advisory are also being merged but this does not affect our area.)
Graphics are from NWS Taunton. 
Thursday, November 2: Preparing for a Winter Storm at Home
Friday, November 3: Preparing Your Vehicle for a Winter Storm
Saturday, November 4: Frostbite and Hypothermia
Sunday, November 5: Freezing Drizzle, Freezing Rain, and Ice Safety

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