What’s the difference between a winter storm warning, watch and advisory

Weather Blog

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CLEVELAND (WJW)– The National Weather Service uses a system of watches, warnings and advisories to alert you to hazardous conditions in your area.

Over the next few months, you’ll hear terms like “winter weather advisory” and “winter storm warning.” They each have a separate definition and even have different meanings in other parts of the country.

So here’s what the winter alerts mean in Northeast Ohio:

Winter weather advisory

  • Issued any time before the event, but usually not more than 36 hours in advance.
  • Snowfall of 4 inches to 6 inches, or ice accumulation of .5 inch in 12 hours.

Winter storm watch

  • Issued any time before the event, but usually not more than 36 hours in advance.
  • Confidence in the forecast is 50 percent.
  • Snowfall of 6 inches or more in 12 hours, 8 inches or more in 24, or ice accumulation of .25 or more.
  • If the precipitation is mainly freezing rain, the watch is upgraded to an ice storm warning.
  • If the precipitation is mainly lake effect snow, the watch is upgraded to a lake effect snow warning.

Winter storm warning

  • Issued any time before the event, but mostly issued within 24 hours.
  • Confidence in the forecast is 80 percent.
  • Snowfall of 6 inches or more in 12 hours, 8 inches or more in 24, or ice accumulation of .25 or more.

For local forecasts, weather alerts, live VIPIR Radar and more, download the FREE StormTracker 13 Weather App from the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store.

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