Decoding Winter Weather Warnings

iStock_000003102814_LargeWinter storm alerts come out with regularity once the mercury starts dropping. But what do they mean, and when should you worry? Here’s what NOAA says:

Winter Weather Advisory: For accumulations of snow, freezing rain, freezing drizzle and sleet that will cause significant inconveniences.

Wind Chill Warning: When wind chill temperatures are expected to be hazardous to life within several minutes of exposure.

Wind Chill Advisory: When wind chill temperatures are expected to be a significant inconvenience.

Winter Storm Watch: A storm is likely – stay alert. Usually issued 12-48 hours ahead.

Winter Storm Warning: A storm is in your area – take action. Usually issued 12-24 hours ahead.

Blizzard Warning: Take shelter immediately. Sustained or gusty winds of 35 mph or more. Falling or blowing snow creating visibilities at or below 1/4 mile. Life-threatening wind chills. Conditions persist for at least three hours.