Severe Winter Weather Awareness Week: Breaking down winter weather terminology

MADISON, Wis. — With the winter season right around the corner, terms like “winter storm watch” and “winter weather advisory” will soon be common during the nightly forecast.

This week is Winter Weather Awareness Week in Wisconsin, and over the next few nights, our weather team will get you prepared for winter’s worst weather.

RELATED: Severe Winter Weather Awareness Week: Southern Wisconsin’s worst storms

Meteorologist Julian Seawright breaks down some of the words and phrases Wisconsinites need to know to prepare for the season.

Watch vs. warning vs. advisory: What’s the difference, and when are they issued?

A winter storm watch in itself is when snow, sleet or ice is going to be possible. This is a precautionary type of alert that will be sent by the National Weather Service and relayed from us to you in your homes. This is mainly to say to be prepared for a winter storm.

A winter storm in itself is when a storm could produce heavy snow, sleet or even freezing rain to the forecast area.

Then we have the winter weather advisory, which is when wintry weather is to be expected for the forecasted area. Use caution whenever this is going to be issued as light amounts of wintry precipitation or blowing snow will cause slick conditions and could affect travel if precautions are not taken.

Then we have the winter storm warning. This is issued when we’re expecting wintry weather to be expected for the forecast area and we are advising to avoid travel at all costs whenever this is issued.

Winter storms will produce heavy snow, sleet or freezing rain and cause significant travel impacts that could be dangerous and treacherous to you if you are not prepared.

A graphic breaking down the difference between winter weather terms.

What about a blizzard warning?

Not every storm is going to be a blizzard. Blizzards require specific criteria: sustained winds of 35 miles per hour or higher and heavy falling or blowing snow which is creating visibility of less than a quarter of a mile. The conditions must be sustained over at least three consecutive hours to count as a blizzard.

So our best solution for this is to make sure that you’re staying home and do not travel at all. Travel will be extremely difficult or even impossible in blizzard-like conditions and can be very treacherous and dangerous to your livelihood.

So now that we’ve covered a bit of the terminology, there are some things we’ll need to know just to prepare for the snow.

Things to consider: make sure that you have a shovel supply of some salt, fuel for the snowblower. Also, make sure the boots are handy; you’re going to need them, especially if heavy snowfall has accumulated. In addition, you’ll want kitty litter for traction, and make sure that you have your car safety kit.

These are some things to take away and keep you on inside so you’ll be able to maneuver throughout the winter season.