What’s going on?
The National Weather Service has listened to folks all across the country, and there will be a couple changes to the way they put out their watches and advisories starting immediately for this autumn/winter season.
This is being done to simplify and focus the way weather information from the National Weather Service is presented.
Landon’s Cut to the Chase
- Freezing Rain advisories are being consolidated into Winter Weather Advisories.
- Blizzard Watches are being consolidated into Winter Storm Watches.
Much more on what that means below:
Freezing Rain Advisories going away
A Freezing Rain Advisory traditionally has been issued by the National Weather Service to indicate that freezing drizzle or freezing rain will cause significant inconveniences including travel concerns due to ice accumulation. This advisory was used to indicate when under a quarter of an inch of freezing rain was expected to accumulate. (A Winter Storm Warning or an Ice Storm Warning was and still will be issued when freezing rain is expected to accumulate to a quarter of an inch or greater.)
Freezing Rain Advisories will no longer be issued. These events will now be included under the Winter Weather Advisory umbrella. So, Winter Weather Advisories will now include occasions when under a quarter of an inch of freezing drizzle/rain is expected. This means you’ll have to be more diligent in reading the entire advisory to see what types of weather will be happening.
Winter Weather Advisories actually vary some depending on the region of the country. It takes more snow to get the advisory in the northern part of the country — since we have more plows and road crews and folks that are used to driving in wintry conditions.
For us, Winter Weather Advisories in the past have included inclement weather when snowfall totals are generally expected to be in the 3-to-6-inch range. This will continue to be the case. Also, in the past, a weather event generating a combination of lesser snowfall and minimal freezing drizzle/rain can also lead to a Winter Weather Advisory being issued. This will also continue to be the case, and it really is at the discretion of our own local National Weather Service office in the Quad Cities as to which weather events will get the advisory.
Depending on air and ground temperatures and prevailing road conditions like whether or not roads have been pre-treated with salt — any amount of freezing drizzle or freezing rain can be extremely dangerous and deadly. That’s regardless of whether any advisory or warning is out. I’ve seen many times where very light precipitation, including deadly freezing drizzle, sometimes will not show up at all on computer models or even radar. It becomes very important to stay informed of the latest weather and what your travel plans will be, sometimes several times a day, hour-by-hour, whenever that type of weather unfolds. Often times, this type of weather will accompany fog, sometimes dense, as well as ‘black ice’ — where the pavement merely looks ‘wet’ but is actually ice.
Blizzard Watches going away
I probably don’t need to spend a lot of time with this one. Blizzard Watches were an extreme rarity here anyway. Even the the 20-inch snow we had at the very end of January in 2011 followed a Winter Storm Watch — not a Blizzard Watch. Snowfall totals aren’t actually factored into what we consider a ‘blizzard’.
A blizzard is when falling snow, blowing snow, or a combination of both can combine with winds of over 35 miles per hour to reduce visibilities to a quarter of a mile or under for a period of 3 hours or longer… phew! It takes a lot for all that to happen. It’s much more common in the Northern Plains in states like Montana, the Dakotas, Nebraska, and Minnesota. At any rate, the Blizzard Watch will now be included under the Winter Storm Watch umbrella.
I’ll talk more about various winter weather advisories, watches, and warnings as we get into some weather later. If you have a question, you’re always welcomed to ask me, and I’ll try to answer it for you.