Winter watches, warnings, and advisories – what do these mean?

Beyond The Forecast

(WFRV) – The threat of snow events in the winter often causes local National Weather Service (NWS) offices to issue watches, warnings, and advisories to keep the public safe. But what do these mean?

To start, there’s a general timeline that’s produced when it comes to issuing any of these. Four to seven days out, an outlook can only be produced. One to three days away, the decision shifts to whether or not to issue a watch. Within 24 hours of a snow event, a decision is made between issuing a warning or advisory. Of course, at any of these phases, the NWS can choose not to issue a watch or warning.

A winter weather advisory is not as impactful as a winter storm warning. When the NWS issues an advisory it means for road conditions, “Driving will not be as fast as normal, however, if you take your time, you will get there.” Forecasted conditions are likely calling for 3-6” of snow, freezing rain, or sleet mix. 

There are a couple of different types of winter weather warnings a local NWS office can issue. These warnings can be any of the following: winter storm, blizzard, ice storm, or wind chill.

A winter storm warning is one of the most impactful, calling for forecast conditions 6” of snow in 12 hours or 8” of snow in 24 hours.

Only seven blizzard events have been recorded in Brown County in the last 30 years, which requires winds over 35 mph, blowing or falling snow, and visibility ¼ mile or less for 3 hours. In April 2018, much of Northeast Wisconsin experienced a blizzard that in some spots dropped over 20 inches of snow.

When winter weather watches, warnings, and advisories are issued for Northeast Wisconsin, stay with Storm Team 5 on-air, online, and on our app:


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