KUSA - It's important to understand the definition and criteria for winter advisories and warnings because when you know what they mean, you will know how to respond and what actions to take.
A term we hear a lot during winter is the winter weather advisory. It is issued for the mountains when snow accumulations could reach 6 to 12 inches inches in 24 hours. For lower elevations, like the Front Range and plains, a winter weather advisory is issued for 4 to 8 inches in a 24-hour period. When caution is used, these situations should not be life threatening, but could be inconvenient and hazardous.
The difference from an advisory to a warning is the amount of snow expected. A faster rate and higher accumulation of snow is expected during a winter storm warning. In the mountains it's issued when 12 inches or more are expected within a 24-hour period and for lower elevations accumulations of 8 inches or more during a 24-hour period would prompt a Winter storm warning. Also a warning let's you know that a significant winter storm is happening or will happen that could threaten life and property. People in a warning area should take precautions immediately.
The most dangerous winter storms are blizzards. In addition to snow, a blizzard warning is also determined by strong winds. It's issued for the plains when sustained winds of 35 mph or more last for more than three hours. In the mountains, sustained winds of 50 mph or more can cause blizzard conditions along with considerable falling or blowing snow with visibility of 1/4-of-a-mile or less.
A winter storm watch is not as imminent as a warning. It's issued when hazardous winter storm conditions are likely within the next three to four days, but the timing, intensity, or occurrence may still be uncertain. When these factors become more certain, often the watch will be upgraded to a "WARNING." People in a watch area should review their winter storm plans and stay informed about weather conditions
High winds are common in the winter, especially from January through March. High wind warnings are for the plains, mountains, and foothills are a little bit different.
For the mountains: sustained wind of 50 mph for 1 hour or more, or 75 mph gusts.
For the plains: sustained wind of 40 mph for 1 hour or more, or 58 mph gusts.
Please become familiar with a list of more winter-weather definitions and preparedness tips: http://www.crh.noaa.gov/bou/?n=winter_statements
Although winter doesn't officially begin until Dec. 21, many places in Colorado have already seen their first snowfall.
Before it arrives with all its strength, now is the time to get your car prepared for winter travel. Find out how here: http://on9news.tv/17FztcI.
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