The National Weather Service frequently issues one of four alerts in advance of winter weather:
Winter Storm Outlook: Issued prior to a Winter Storm Watch. The Outlook is given when forecasters believe winter storm conditions are possible and are usually issued three to five days in advance of a winter storm.
Winter Storm Watch: Alerts the public to the possibility of a blizzard, heavy snow, heavy freezing rain, or heavy sleet. Winter Storm Watches are usually issued twelve to forty-eight hours before the beginning of a Winter Storm.
Winter Storm Warning: Issued when hazardous winter weather in the form of heavy snow, heavy freezing rain, or heavy sleet is imminent or occurring. Winter Storm Warnings are usually issued twelve to twenty-four hours before the event is expected to begin.
Winter Weather Advisory: Issued for accumulations of snow, freezing rain, freezing drizzle, and sleet which will cause significant inconveniences and, if caution is not exercised, could lead to life-threatening situations.
Hazardous conditions often result from these weather culprits:
Blowing Snow: Wind-driven snow that reduces visibility and causes significant drifting. Blowing snow may be snow that is falling or loose snow on the ground picked up by the wind.
Sleet: Sleet occurs when rain freezes into pellets before hitting the ground. Although it can accumulate and create slick surfaces, sleet is generally visible and does not stick to objects.
Freezing Rain: Freezing rain is created when rain hits a surface with a temperature below freezing, such as a road, and freezes to it upon impact. Freezing rain is particularly dangerous because it creates a coating of ice that may be difficult to see. Most ice storms are the result of freezing rain accumulation.
Plan ahead with the following online resources:
- FEMA’s Guide to Winter Storms and Extreme Cold
- Missouri Department of Transportation Traveler Information Map (or call 888-ASK-MODOT for current road conditions)
- National Weather Service Radar
- Preparing Vehicles for Winter Weather
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