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Arctic Arkansas | Part 3 -- Understanding Winter Alerts

Winter warnings, watches, advisories, oh my! What does each one mean and how do they differ across the nation?

ARKANSAS, USA — Winter can bring a range of weather types across the nation as cold air constantly fights warm air. Big storms end up getting lots of winter-related alerts. In Arkansas and Oklahoma, we get caught up in the middle of rain, freezing rain, sleet, snow, etc. The National Weather Service issues a range of alerts ahead of winter storms to cover all the different precipitation types, but it can get confusing sometimes what they all mean. In addition, alerts change across the country. Winter in Florida is different than winter in Arkansas, and even more different in Alaska. Let's break this down!


Watch -- A watch is issued farther out ahead of a winter storm arriving into Arkansas, but within 48 hours. The storm will likely have significant impacts to travel. Many things can change within 48 hours so the watch gives a heads up that wintry weather is possible soon.

Warning -- A warning is issued when hazardous winter weather is happening or is just about to happen. Significant travel and power impacts are likely. These situations can be life-threatening.

Advisory -- An advisory is issued during weaker winter storms. There will likely be inconveniences, but the weather is not expected to be serious enough for a warning. Lower amounts are usually in play for snow or ice.

Credit: KFSM


Winter Weather Advisory -- 1-3 inches of snow, less than 1/2 inch of sleet, less than 1/4 inch of ice, and/or blowing snow

Wind Chill Advisory -- wind chills likely to dip to -5 to -19 degrees with wind speeds of at least 10 MPH lasting for at least 2 hours

Winter Storm Warning -- 4 inches of snow in 12 hours or 6 inches of snow in 24 hours, 1/2 inch of sleet, and/or 1/4 inch of ice

Ice Storm Warning -- at least 1/4 inch of ice expected with no significant snowfall

Blizzard Warning -- at least 35 MPH winds and blowing snow to result in visibility of 1/4 mile or less

Wind Chill Warning -- wind chills of -20 or less expected with at least 10 MPH winds lasting for at least 2 hours

Snow Squall Warning -- heavy snow with visibility of 1/4 mile or less, plus sub-freezing road temperatures

Credit: KFSM

These alerts range quite a bit across the United States. The south has lower criteria thresholds to hit for winter-related warnings while the north has higher criteria.

For example, a winter storm warning in Minneapolis needs 6 inches of snow in 12 hours, while a winter storm warning in Fayetteville / Fort Smith needs 4 inches of snow in 12 hours. In North Carolina you need 3 inches of snow in 12 hours.

Credit: KFSM

- Matt & Tyler


RELATED: Arctic Arkansas | Part 1 -- Winter Weather Outlook 2021-2022

RELATED: Arctic Arkansas | Part 2 -- Winter Weather Folklore 2021-2022

Official 5NEWS Winter Weather Outlook

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