This week is Winter Weather Awareness Week for the Lowcountry. To prepare for the upcoming winter season, here are some terms which the national weather service uses to describe winter weather as well as the definitions of watches, warnings and advisories issued for winter weather events.

A hazardous weather outlook is issued prior to a winter storm watch, warning, or advisory. The outlook is usually issued when winter storm conditions are possible for the warned area. 

The following are the warning headlines issued for winter weather events according to the National Weather Service: 

  • Winter storm warnings are issued when hazardous weather is imminent or occurring. It can be in the form of heavy snow, heavy sleet, or any type of heavy winter precipitation. 
  • A blizzard warning is issued for sustained or gusty winds of 35 mph or more, and falling or blowing snow creating visibilities at or below one quarter mile. 
  • Ice storm warnings are issued when a significant amount of ice is expected to accumulate on trees or roadways. These storms can be very dangerous; causing power outages and disrupting traffic.
  • A lake effect snow warning is issued when heavy lake effect snow is imminent or occurring.
  • A snow squall warning is issued when a burst of heavy snow with near zero visibility and icy road conditions is occurring or imminent. Snow squalls are extremely dangerous for motorists because of how rapidly they evolve. Make sure you do not slam on your breaks if you are caught in a snow squall. Reduce your speed and turn on your headlights. 
  • Wind chill warnings are issued when wind chill temperatures are expected to be a threat to life within minutes of exposure. 

There are also winter weather advisories, this is for winter weather that isn’t as hazardous. However it can cause significant inconveniences. 

  • Winter weather advisories are issued for accumulation of snow, sleet, freezing rain/drizzle that would cause significant inconveniences. These usually do not threaten life or property, caution should still be exercised. 
  • A wind chill advisory is issued when wind chill temperatures are expected to be a significant inconvenience to life with prolonged exposure, and, if caution is not exercised, could lead to hazardous exposure. 

This week make sure you know the different watches and warnings for winter weather! And prepare an action plan for your home and family if winter weather occurs!