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Winter weather – What does that weather warning mean?

Tuesday, October 18th, 2022 5:00am MDT
You have seen and heard the warnings but do you know what they really mean?

You have seen and heard the warnings but do you know what they really mean?

We all are familiar with the crawls on the TV screen or the announcements on the radio for winter weather advisories such as Winter Storm Watch, Blizzard Warning, Freeze Warning and more. But, how many of us really know what those mean? There is very specific criteria the National Weather Service follows in issuing these watches and warnings and there are important differences between all of them.

In this second in a series on Winter Weather Preparedness from the National Weather Service, ThorntonWeather.com helps you understand what all of these mean so you can be better prepared.

600 AM TUE OCT 18 2022

From the National Weather Service:

What does that warning mean?

When a warning is issued during the winter season, will you know what it means, and will you know how to respond? During this Colorado Winter Weather Preparedness Week, please become familiar with our list of potentially life-saving winter weather products.


A Hazardous Weather Outlook is issued daily by the National Weather Service office in Boulder Colorado. The outlook provides information on potentially hazardous weather out to 7 days into the future. Also, the Weather Story, a graphic of expected hazardous weather, is posted daily on National Weather Service web sites.


A Winter Storm Watch is issued when hazardous winter storm conditions are possible within the next 3 to 4 days, but the timing, intensity, or occurrence may still be uncertain. In contrast, a Winter Storm Warning is issued for potentially life-threatening winter storm conditions, such as heavy snowfall or a combination of snowfall and blowing snow, which are likely to occur within the next 1 to 2 days. Impacts such as timing of winter weather on rush hour are also considered when issuing Watches and Warnings.

Winter Storm
Plains: 6″ in 12 hours, 8″ in 24 hrs
Mountains: 8″ in 12 hours, 12″ in 24 hours
And Impacts

Winter Weather Advisory
Plains: 3-6″ in 12 hours, 4-8″ in 24 hours
Mountains: 4-8″ in 12 hours, 6-12″ in 24 hours
And Impacts

Sustained wind or frequent gusts 35 mph or greater, AND
Considerable falling/blowing snow with visibility less than 1/4 mile, for at least 3 hours


Advisories for winter weather are issued for potentially hazardous conditions which are considered more of a nuisance than a life-threatening situation. However, if caution is not taken the advisory events could become life-threatening. Impacts such as timing of winter weather on rush hour are also considered when issuing Advisories.

Winter Weather Preparedness Week in Colorado will continue through Saturday.

Winter weather watches and advisories.

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