While there are no imminent, big winter weather problems in the near term forecast, it's never too early to brush up on your winter knowledge. I'm mostly interested in getting you refreshed on the terminology and weather words and local winter forecast effects that you will hear in the coming colder, winter months.
Let's start with the basic weather "alerts" you will hear. These alerts are issued by the National Weather Service, then relayed through many other sources (apps, local news, etc...) before a high impact weather event is expected. For example...
A winter storm watch is issued typically about 24-48 hours before a snow storm will impact the areas within that "watch". A winter storm watch is issued ahead of a snowstorm to help grab the attention of the public and to make people aware that a storm is expected. What *you* should do as a result, is prepare yourself in any way necessary...whether it means to bring more wood in for the woodstove, stock up on your milk and bread so you don't need to travel once the snow starts, or to plan ahead incase your child's school is canceled for the day. You should also watch local news or read the details of the watch to see how much snow is anticipated, for what areas, and any other impacts that may come with the storm (wind, icing, timing, etc...)
A winter storm warning is issued closer to "impact time". A winter storm warning is issued when a winter storm (snow, sleet, or freezing rain could occur, dependent on the details of each storm) is imminent and within 24 hours of beginning. In the case of the warning, you should try to avoid travel, and be prepared for the impacts that are forecast (again, check with local news or read the bulletins from the National Weather Service for details on the storm's specifics for your town).
Finally, a winter weather advisory is another term that may be thrown out there this winter. This one is typically lower impact than a "winter storm warning", BUT can still be very dangerous. A winter weather advisory is often issued for lower snow amounts, or a light mix of snow, sleet, and freezing rain. This combination can, no doubt, cause just as many problems for travelers as any amount of snow. This is issued for a similar time as a winter storm warning, within 24 hours of "impact". It is also hoisted for a specific time span, and you should read the details that come along with this headline if it is issued for your area. No two storms are the same, and there are fine details, especially over an area of complex terrain like our region.
With that, I want to refresh your brain of what we forecast for at Fox44/ABC22 on a daily basis. Our viewing area stretches from Franklin county in New York, through nearly all of Vermont, and into interior New Hampshire (we also reach into southern Quebec, as well!). Within VT, NY, and NH, there are 3 major mountain ranges... the Adirondacks, the Green Mountains, and the White Mountains (see image top left and click to enlarge). In between you have the Champlain and Connecticut River Valleys. This undulating terrain makes wintertime forecasting a challenge. Mountains can often enhance snowfall amounts and cause the hillsides and mountaintops to get much more snow than the lower lying valleys.
I encourage you to take a look a local topographical map. Figure out where *you* live. What is your elevation? Where do you sit in the undulating mountains and valleys? You will hear our Sky Tracker forecasts referring to snow levels by elevation, talk about what mountain ranges will see the most snow and often give a wide range of snow total forecasts. If you want to be better prepared for the snow to come this winter, then learn a little bit more about your area, understand the words that will be thrown out there such as "watch" or "warning". It's all about being better prepared when the snow (and sleet and ice) begin to fly.