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WX 101: Winter Weather Advisories, Watches, and Warnings
Winter storms can often be a hassle for the Midwest. Meteorologists have come up with winter weather advisories, watches, and warnings to help forewarn an impending snow storm. These storms can bring snow, ice, freezing, rain, sleet, or even a combination of two. A winter weather advisory goes out when a winter storm presents a hazard, but doesn't meet warning criteria. A winter storm watch is put out when there is a storm with the potential of dropping heavy snow, or a lot of ice accumulation. A winter storm warning goes out for a storm that is producing heavy snow or ice.
This can differ from a blizzard in that a blizzard really decreases visibility due to strong winds. A blizzard describes conditions that include three hours or longer of wind speeds of 35 mph, or frequent wind gusts and visibilities reduced under a 1/4 mile. This means you can have a blizzard even when it is not actively snowing.