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Know your winter weather terms

During winter weather remember, safety first.
During winter weather remember, safety first.
Photo by Rebecca Zenefski 10.

Sunny, warm temps in November… it’s hard to believe that winter will ever come. But it will. Here is a winter-weather primer.


St. Catherine University administrators and staff regularly monitor official weather reports and road conditions, including the National Weather Service storm warnings and watches.

The safety and security of the campus community is the highest priority, and the decision to cancel classes or close the campus is carefully considered.

Get weather updates
For the most current information, call the Weather Hotline at 651-690-8666 (x 8666 on campus). The University always updates this resource first. Weather updates are also posted here at the news site, on the University's Facebook page and Daily Update on St. Kate’s intranet, KateWay.

If classes are cancelled, a message will also be sent out via St. Kate’s Alert System — so go to Kateway and sign up now!

The college will also notify WCCO-Radio (830 AM) and television stations WCCO (Channel 4), KSTP (Channel 5) and KARE-11.

Key weather terminology
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Weather Service has helpful information about weather terms and what they mean for your safety.

Winter Storm Warning: Issued when hazardous winter weather in the form of heavy snow, heavy freezing rain, or heavy sleet is imminent or occurring. Winter Storm Warnings are usually issued 12 to 24 hours before the event is expected to begin.

Winter Storm Watch: Alerts the public to the possibility of a blizzard, heavy snow, heavy freezing rain, or heavy sleet. Winter Storm Watches are usually issued 12 to 48 hours before the beginning of a Winter Storm.

Winter Storm Outlook: Issued prior to a Winter Storm Watch. The Outlook is given when forecasters believe winter storm conditions are possible and are usually issued 3 to 5 days in advance of a winter storm.

Blizzard Warning: Issued for sustained or gusty winds of 35 mph or more, and falling or blowing snow creating visibilities at or below ¼ mile; these conditions should persist for at least three hours.

Winter Weather Advisories: Issued for accumulations of snow, freezing rain, freezing drizzle, and sleet that will cause significant inconveniences and, if caution is not exercised, could lead to life-threatening situations.

Snow Showers: Snow falling at varying intensities for brief periods of time. Some accumulation is possible.

Snow Squalls: Brief, intense snow showers accompanied by strong, gusty winds. Accumulation may be significant. Snow squalls are best known in the Great Lakes region.

Blowing Snow: This is wind-driven snow that reduces visibility and causes significant drifting. Blowing snow may be snow that is falling and/or loose snow on the ground picked up by the wind.

Wet and fog can also create hazards
Sleet: Raindrops that freeze into ice pellets before reaching the ground. Sleet usually bounces when hitting a surface and does not stick to objects. However, it can accumulate like snow and cause a hazard to motorists.

Freezing Rain: Rain that falls onto a surface with a temperature below freezing. This causes it to freeze to surfaces, such as trees, cars, and roads, forming a coating or glaze of ice. Even small accumulations of ice can cause a significant hazard.

Dense Fog Advisory: Issued when fog will reduce visibility to ¼ mile or less over a widespread area.
Snow Flurries: Light snow falling for short durations. No accumulation or light dusting is all that is expected.

Mighty wind?
Wind Chill Warning: Issued when wind chill temperatures are expected to be hazardous to life within several minutes of exposure.

Wind Chill Advisory: Issued when wind chill temperatures are expected to be a significant inconvenience to life with prolonged exposure, and, if caution is not exercised, could lead to hazardous exposure.

Live near a lake?
Lake Effect Snow Warning: Issued when heavy lake effect snow is imminent or occurring.

Lake Effect Snow Advisory: Issued when accumulation of lake effect snow will cause significant inconvenience.  

Nov. 18, 2010 by Julie Michener

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