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Wednesday, January 7

Watch? Warning? Advisory? What's the difference?!

Written by: Bob Metcalfe

So we've been hit by a slew of harsh winter weather over the past few weeks. High winds, extreme wind chills, snow, blowing snow, lake effect snow, and oh yea, ice and freezing precipitation too. I could continue, but you get the idea.

With each of these weather circumstances, and in any combination, the National Weather Service can issue watches, warnings, or advisories. Most people are used to seeing watch and warning, but some may be confused as to how they should interpret say a "Winter Weather Advisory". Have no fear, we are here to clear it up!

Here is the exact definition as it stands from the National Weather Service for ADVISORY:

"Highlights special weather conditions that are less serious than a warning. They are for events that may cause significant inconvenience, and if caution is not exercised, it could lead to situations that may threaten life and/or property."

This basically means that the weather will have an impact, but isn't likely to cause widespread problems in a given area. Compare this to a WATCH:

"A watch is used when the risk of a hazardous weather or hydrologic event has increased significantly, but its occurrence, location, and/or timing is still uncertain. It is intended to provide enough lead time so that those who need to set their plans in motion can do so."

We often see a watch issued a few days to several hours before a storm of impact is expected. For instance, if we were fairly confident in a Nor'easter developing on Saturday, you may see a winter weather watch issued for it either Thursday or Friday.

And that only leaves WARNING:

"A warning is issued when a hazardous weather or hydrologic event is occurring, is imminent, or has a very high probability of occurring. A warning is used for conditions posing a threat to life or property."

IE, storm is at your doorstep, or in your living room. Serious problems are likely or are already happening.

Hope this clears it up for you! Drive safely!

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