Redefining the Classroom

Safety & Health

Winter Weather Terms

Know the terms used by weather forecasters so that you clearly understand the risk to your family and your community, including:

  • Winter weather advisory - Winter weather conditions are expected to cause significant inconveniences and may be hazardous, especially to motorists;
  • Winter storm watch - Be alert, a storm is possible;
  • Winter storm warning - Take action, the storm is occurring or will soon occur in the area;
  • Blizzard warning - Snow and strong winds combined will produce blinding snow, near zero visibility, deep drifts, and life-threatening wind chill - seek refuge immediately;
  • Frost/freeze warning - Below freezing temperatures are expected.


People at risk from disasters, whether natural or human in origin, can take actions that save lives, reduce losses, speed response, and reduce human suffering when they receive accurate warnings in a timely manner. Scientists are developing more accurate and more numerous warnings as they deploy better sensors to measure key variables, employ better dynamic models, and expand their understanding of the causes of disasters.

Warnings can now be made months in advance, in the case of El Niño, to seconds in advance of the arrival of earthquake waves at some distance from the earthquake. Computers are being programmed to respond to warnings automatically, shutting down or appropriately modifying transportation systems, lifelines, manufacturing processes, and such. Warnings are becoming much more useful to society as lead-time and reliability are improved and as society devises ways to respond effectively. Effective dissemination of warnings provides a way to reduce disaster losses that have been increasing in the United States as people move into areas at risk and as our infrastructure becomes more complex and more valuable.

This report addresses the problems of delivering warnings reliably to only those people at risk and to systems that have been preprogrammed to respond to early warnings. Further, the report makes recommendations on how substantial improvement can be made if the providers of warnings can become better coordinated and if they can better utilize the opportunities provided by existing and new technologies.

Current warnings can target those at risk at the county and sub-county level. The technology presently exists to build smart receivers to customize warnings to the users'; local situation, whether at home, at work, outdoors, or in their cars. It should also be possible to customize the information for trucks, trains, boats, and airplanes. The problem is to agree on standards and dissemination systems.

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