What Do the NWS Watches and Warnings Mean?

— Written By Diana Rashash

It’s early 2018 and the National Weather Service has already been busy with a variety of winter weather event notifications for our area. With that, it would be good to understand the various watches and warnings that are issued. The NC Climate Office website discusses these watches and warnings.

From their website, the three winter storm notices are:

Winter Weather AdvisoryA winter weather advisory is usually issued when winter weather is expected, but the snow, sleet, and/or freezing rain accumulations do not meet the warning criteria; i.e., the conditions in your area are not expected to be hazardous or life threatening.

Winter Storm Watch– Winter storm watches indicate that intense winter weather conditions are expected within the next 12-36 hours. The criteria for a winter storm watch include heavy snow, sleet, freezing rain, or any combination of these three. Given the lead time on these watches, it allows people to prepare and anticipate the expected wintry conditions.

Winter Storm Warning– A winter storm warning means that significant winter weather conditions (mentioned in the watch) are occurring or will happen very shortly. Winter storm warnings can last for several hours due to the size and nature of winter storms.

Winter weather in coastal North Carolina can be hard to predict, especially where the rain-ice-snow line will occur. Hopefully, we’ve had our quota of events for this winter…but you never know.