Understanding winter weather warnings

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO) It's Winter Weather Preparedness Week here in Colorado, which means that the cold and snow is not far away.

But when you're watching or listening to the weather, do you understand what they mean by things like "winter storm watch," or "winter storm advisory?"

"We go through a progression of weather products to heighten the awareness of a storm that is approaching our area and as we see the likelihood increasing, we will begin issuing these products," said Jim Pringle of the National Weather Service in Grand Junction.

When it comes to the winter months, they essentially use a risk-progression criteria.

A Hazardous Weather Outlooks is typically announced about a week in advance of when a potential storm could hit and is generally low-risk.

A Winter Storm Watch is similar, but usually made just a few days in advance when a storm system is more imminent.

Then comes the Winter Storm Advisory and Winter Storm Warning, which indicate the presence of a storm, but with different severity levels.

"When we issue a weather warning, we're telling people that particular storm system has a potential threat to life and property, whereas typically, a weather advisory is more of a nuisance type of weather event," Pringle said.

Being in Colorado, the criteria changes based on location, or more specifically, elevation.

A winter storm warning in the mountains is an anticipation of 12 inches of snow, while in the lower elevations, it is for just six inches.

The same goes for High Wind Warnings.

In the lower elevations, they expect sustained winds of 40 MPH, while in the mountains it's 50+ MPH.

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