Winter weather advisories: what do they mean? - CBS46 News

Winter weather advisories: what do they mean?

We don't get much snow in Atlanta, but when the white stuff does fall it can get confusing...and fast!

There are dozens of winter weather alerts that are issued to help identify the type of winter weather you can expect, but too many alerts at once can be a lot to digest.

Here is short-list of some of the alerts we see the most in Atlanta:

Winter Weather Advisory
Expect some form of winter weather

This is the alert we see the most when it comes to winter weather because it covers everything!

It basically means we will see some form of winter weather: snow, sleet or freezing rain/drizzle.

Travel: travel can be an inconvenience, but typically not too bad.

Winter Storm Watch
Expect a significant winter event

A Winter Storm Watch is the next step up from an advisory.  It basically means some kind of winter weather can be expected that could cause significant travel problems, but the watch is key!  The word "watch" in weather means that nothing is actually happening, but is expected.  As you'll see below, a "warning" means something is about to happen very soon.

When a Winter Storm Watch is issued, the following can be expected: 

  • 2 or more inches of snow in 12 hours
  • 4 or more inches of snow in a day
  • 1/2 an inch of sleet
  • 1/4 an inch of freezing rain.

Travel: significant travel are not expected during the watch.

Winter Storm Warning
Significant event occurring or will soon

This is the same as a Winter Storm Watch, the only difference being it's a warning...meaning a significant winter weather event is already happening or will happen soon!

This is tied for the most severe type of winter weather alert we see in Atlanta.

Travel: significant travel problems can be expected.

Ice Storm Warning
Expect ice

This alert was developed specifically to warn you of ice on roads.  The other alerts above can mean a variety of different types of winter weather, but an Ice Storm Warning means just that...ice. 

When an Ice Storm Warning is issued, expect at least 1/4 an inch or more of freezing rain.

This is tied for the most severe type of winter weather alert we see in Atlanta.  Ice on roads is bad!

Travel: significant travel problems can be expected.

Freeze Warning
Expect freezing temperatures

A freeze warning is issued when freezing temperatures are expected (32 degrees or below) during the growing season.

The growing season is key!  Freeze warnings aren't issued all winter...if that were the case you'd see them everyday!

They're only issued when we are transitioning from the warm to cold season to give those in the agriculture community notice when non-winter vegetation may be at risk. 

It's also a good reminder for us all when it comes to pets and pipes early in the cold season.

Freeze Warnings are only issued up until Nov. 20 or when temperatures drop to 28 degrees.

Frost Advisory
Expect frost and cold temperatures

A Frost Advisory is issued when frost is expected to develop.  This typically happens when temperatures drop into the upper 30s with enough moisture around to produce frost.

Similar to freeze warnings, frost advisories are only issues at the beginning and end of the cold season.

There are a variety of other types of winter weather alerts we see in Atlanta, but the ones I mention above are the ones we see the most.

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