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Some Important Weather Terms


Severe Thunderstorm Watch - Conditions are favorable for thunderstorms to produce large hail or damaging winds. These watches are normally issued for four to six hours at a time, and for a large number of counties. Once again, if you are in or near the Severe Thunderstorm Watch area, stay informed with NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio, or television.

Severe Thunderstorm Warning - Issued when a thunderstorm is occuring or imminent that contains winds of at least 58 m.p.h., and/or hail of at least 3/4" in diameter.

Tornado Watch - Conditions are favorable for tornadoes to develop. It is normally issued for four to six hours, and can include many counties. If you are in or near the Tornado Watch area, stay informed with NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio, or television.

Tornado Warning - Issued when a tornado is occuring (and has been seen by trained storm spotters), or is developing (and has been seen be radar).

Severe Weather Statement - The Severe Weather Statement is a follow-up to Tornado and Severe Thunderstorm Warnings. These statements inform you of the current status of a tornado or severe thunderstorm. In addition, it gives the history of a storm, where it is moving, and who it will affect. This NWS product is also used to cancel or expire a warning.

Hazardous Weather Outlook - A product issued by the NWS to discuss the significant weather of the day, or possibly next two days. It describes potential weather hazards for an area, and is especially created for trained spotters and Emergency Managers. The Hazardous Weather Outlook will detail the type of severe weather expected (if any), timing, and expected location of the severe weather.


Flash Flood Watch - This is issued when heavy rain may develop and result in flash flooding in or near the watch area. A Flash Flood Watch will also be issued if ground, river/stream conditions, or radar surveillance indicate flash flooding is possible, but not imminent within a designated area.

Flash Flood Warning - A flood warning issued for life/property threatening flooding that will occur within 6 hours. It could be issued for rural or urban areas as well as for areas along the major rivers.

Flash Flood Statement - Flash Flood Statements are used to continue Flash Flood Watches, to follow-up watches and warnings with additional or current information, and to keep you informed of the flooding status. It is also issued by the NWS to cancel or expire a watch or warning.

Urban/Small Stream Flood Advisory - Issued when heavy rain will cause flooding of streets and low-lying places in urban areas. Also used if small rural or urban streams are expected to reach or exceed bankfull. Some damage to homes or roads could occur.


Blizzard Warning - Issued when winter storm conditions of sustained winds or frequent gusts of 35 mph or more that cause major blowing and drifting of snow, reducing visibility to less than one-quarter mile for 3 or more hours.

Ice Storm Warning - Issued when freezing rain which is expected to deposit 1/4" of ice or more on exposed surfaces is expected.

Snow/Blowing Snow Advisory - Issued when wind driven snow that reduces visibility to six miles or less causing significant drifting. Blowing snow may be snow that is falling and/or loose snow on the ground picked up by the wind.

Wind Chill Warning - Issued when wind chills of -35 or lower are expected with winds of at least 10 mph or greater.

Winter Weather Advisory - Issued for non life-threatening (if caution is exercised) events such as...

--- 3" or more of snowfall (with winds of less than 20 mph)
--- A significant mix of freezing and frozen precipitation
--- Blowing snow which intermittently reduces visibility to less than 1/4 mile
--- Drifting snow which closes roadways
--- Sleet accumulations of 1/2" or more
--- Freezing rain or drizzle with less than 1/4" accumulation
All within a 12 hour period.

Winter Storm Warning - Issued for more serious Winter weather events than those that prompt the issuance of Winter Weather Advisories, such as...

--- 6" or more of snowfall in 12 hours or 8" or more in 24 hours
--- A mix of freezing and frozen precipitation which causes life-threatening conditions
--- 3 to 5 inches of snow combined with high winds (20 mph or more)


High Wind Warning - Issued when sustained winds are forecast to be at least 40 mph or more for 1 hour or more, or gusts of 58 mph or more.

Wind Advisory - Issued when sustained winds are forecast to be at least 30 mph for 1 hour or more, or gusts between 45 and 57 mph.

Dense Fog Advisory - Issued when visibilities of 1/4 mile or less are expected over a wide area.

Freeze Advisory - Issued during the growing season when temperatures are forecast to be less than 30 degrees.

Frost Advisories - Issued during the growing season when temperatures of between 33 and 39 degrees are expected.

Heat Advisory - Issued when heat indeces of between 105 and 114 degrees are expected during the day or heat indeces of 80 degrees or more are expected during the night.

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