What’s the difference between a winter weather watch, warning, or advisory?

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MIAMI VALLEY, Ohio (WDTN) – Storm Team 2 is making sure you know the difference between a watch, warning, and advisory.

ADVISORY: Be Aware. The weather may cause minor issues, but does not meet the criteria for a warning.

WATCH: Be Prepared. Meteorologists are tracking the potential for inclement weather. The ingredients are there for a significant storm. This is the time to make sure you have your winter survival kit ready.

WARNING: Take Action. The inclement weather is here, or arriving very shortly. This is the time to get off the roadways and stay home. Be prepared to use your survival kit if necessary.

From extreme cold, to ice or snow, the National Weather Service could issue 5 important warnings you should be familiar with heading into the winter season.

The color seen in the photos is how the warning will be represented on TV.


Issued for extremely cold air and strong wind combination that drop temperatures to a dangerously low feels like value.

Frostbite and Hypothermia are possible if proper precautions are not taken.

Avoid going outdoors and wear the proper clothing if you have too.

Criteria is adjusted based on climate.

Wind Chill Warning


Issued for snow, sleet, ice, blowing snow, or a combination of hazards.

Travel will be difficult or impossible.

Criteria is adjusted based on climate.

Winter Storm Warning


Issued for ice accumulation at least ¼ an inch.

Travel will be difficult or impossible.

Power outages are likely, and there may be falling tree branches.

Ice Storm Warning


Issued for frequent wind gusts greater than or equal to 35 mph, falling or blowing snow, and visibility less than ¼ a mile for at least 3 hours.

All criteria must be met for it to officially be a blizzard.

Travel extremely difficult in whiteout conditions. A winter survival kit is necessary if you must travel.

Blizzard Warning


New during the 2018/2019 season.

Known to cause large highway pileups and multiple fatalities.

If a warning is sent to your phone, pull over safely somewhere and stop driving until the warning is expired or canceled.


A Winter Weather Advisory is issued if travel will be difficult, but criteria is not met for a warning.

Key reminders for winter car maintenance can be found here.

WDTN has a list of important items you need to get ready for winter here.

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