With winter just around the corner, it’s important to closely follow local weather forecasts and warnings and be familiar with seasonal weather terminology. This knowledge could save lives.
Listening to a Specific Area Message Encoding (SAME) Weather Radio is one of the best ways to monitor severe winter weather notices. These radios only receive weather alerts for your specific county or the surrounding area. SAME Weather Radios provide an alerting tone when the weather-watching tone occurs for specifically Harlan County or a designated area that you may choose.
You also can keep up with severe weather reports by listening to a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio. Part of a nationwide network of radio stations, this radio broadcasts National Weather Service warnings, watches, forecasts and other hazard information 24 hours a day.
Severe winter weather can completely immobilize an area. Heavy snow, blizzards or ice storms are a potential killer of people, pets and livestock. So when weather forecasts predict extremely harsh weather, make advance safety plans in case the conditions develop.
Explanations about some winter weather terms you might learn about on radio or television broadcasts are listed below.
A winter storm warning is issued in anticipation of a combination of heavy snow, freezing rain or sleet. This warning usually is issued six to 24 hours before the weather is expected to begin.
A winter storm watch alerts you to the possibility of a blizzard, heavy snow, freezing rain or sleet. It usually is given 12 to 36 hours before the beginning of the storm.
A winter storm outlook is issued prior to a winter storm watch, usually 48 to 60 hours in advance of a winter storm. The outlook is issued when forecasters believe winter weather conditions are possible.
A blizzard warning is given for sustained or gusty winds of 35 miles per hour or more, and falling or blowing snow that limits visibility to one-fourth mile or less. These conditions should persist for at least three hours.
The wind chill is based on the rate of heat loss from exposed skin caused by the combined effects of wind and cold. An advisory is issued when wind chill temperatures are expected to be between 20 degrees below 0 or colder. If temperatures are predicted to be 35 degrees below or colder, a wind chill warning is given.
When accumulations of snow, freezing rain, freezing drizzle and sleet cause significant inconvenience and moderately dangerous conditions, a winter weather advisory is issued.
Freezing rain falls on a surface with a temperature at or below freezing. Sleet is rain drops that freeze into ice pellets before reaching the ground. Both can cause damaging and dangerous ice accumulations.
Jeremy Williams is the Harlan County extension agent for agriculture & natural resources. Educational programs of the Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service serve all people regardless of race, color, age, sex, religion, disability or national origin.