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 Blog Post

Winter Weather Awareness

November 03, 2022 12:00 AM
By: Ready PA

Image of plow truck in the snow

We've moved into a busy month. As we get out to vote, celebrate our veterans, and enjoy family time surrounding Thanksgiving, we are inching closer to the start of winter. The early indicators for the 2022-23 Pennsylvania winter (December-February) show slightly warmer than average weather for southeastern PA and wetter than average weather for northwestern PA. Outside of those regions, there are no strong signals for above or below average temperature or precipitation patterns. While these are the averages over the three-month winter season, the daily weather can vary greatly with the usual snow, sleet and ice storms possible over the winter. To read more about what's ahead for our winter season, visit here.

Let's take time to review our winter weather terminology as a start. Then, keep an eye out for further details on PEMA's facebook and twitter pages and the NWS offices' facebook and twitter pages and websites during the PA Winter Weather Awareness and Snow Squall Awareness Weeks this month!

Winter Weather Terminology

  • Blizzard: Sustained winds or frequent gusts of 35 mph or more with snow and blowing snow frequently reducing visibility to less than a quarter mile for three hours or more.
  • Blowing Snow: Wind-driven snow that reduces visibility. Blowing snow may be falling snow and/or snow on the ground picked up by the wind.
  • Snow Squalls: Brief, intense snow showers accompanied by strong, gusty winds. Accumulation may be significant.
  • Snow Showers: Snow falling at varying intensities for brief periods of time. Some accumulation is possible.
  • Flurries: Light snow falling for short durations with little or no accumulation.
  • Freezing Rain: Rain that freezes when it hits the frozen objects near the ground; creating a coating of ice on roads, walkways, trees, and power lines.
  • Sleet: Rain that freezes into ice pellets before reaching the ground. Sleet also causes moisture on roads to freeze and become slippery.
When a hazardous storm is forecast to arrive in a day or two…

  • Winter Storm Watch: Issued for the possibility of a blizzard, heavy snow, heavy freezing rain, or heavy sleet.
  • Wind Chill Watch: Issued for the possibility of wind chill temperatures dropping low enough to be hazardous to life within several minutes of exposure.
When a hazardous storm is occurring or less than a day away…
  • Winter Weather Advisories: 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.
  • Winter Storm Warning: Issued when hazardous winter weather in the form of heavy snow, heavy freezing rain, or heavy sleet is imminent or occurring.
  • Ice Storm Warning: Significant icing is expected to produce downed utilities, trees and create treacherous travel.
  • Blizzard Warning: Issued for sustained or gusty winds of 35 mph or more and falling or blowing snow creating visibilities at or below ¼ mile; these conditions should persist for at least three hours.
  • Lake Effect Snow Warning: Widespread or localized lake induced snow squalls or heavy snow showers produce significant snowfall accumulation in less than 12 hours.
  • Wind Chill Warning: Issued when wind chill temperatures are expected to be hazardous to life within several minutes of exposure.

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