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     Winter. The thought of glistening lawns and trees, crowned in the season's first snow comes to mind. Many people wait in anticipation for this moment, but depending on the location, winter can manifest itself in many different ways. For those people living in the southern states, snow, sleet, and freezing rain are rare occurences, a freak of nature in some cases, such as in Southern Florida. On the opposite end of the spectrum are the northern states with frequent blizzards, and sometimes mountains of snow. But whether you live in the North, the South, the East, or the West, winter weather is always a possibility. If one is not prepared for it, winter weather can be very dangerous, even deadly.

     Dozens of lives are lost each year due to exposure to cold alone, not to mention the number of people that lose their lives in traffic fatalities caused by ice and snow on roadways. Major winter storms have the ability to paralyze cities, and even regions, for days, weeks, or even months. Ice and heavy snow coat roads and walkways, snap trees and power lines, and can even collapse the roofs of houses and other buildings. Large amounts of melting snow can also cause flooding. These are just a few of the dangers winter weather can bring to a region. It is very important to be prepared ahead of time, should a major winter storm strike. Please read this page and its accompanying pages cafefully.
     Winter weather comes in many different forms, including low temperatures, snow, ice, sleet, freezing rain, and often blustery wind. Severity of winter weather varies depending on the location. A few inches of snow in the south, could be considered a major winter storm, whereas, in many northern states a few inches of snow is a daily event. Never-the-less, all winter weather should be taken seriously, and people need to be aware of every possible weather condition.

     There are three types of winter precipitation: snow, sleet, and freezing rain. Snow occurs when rain freezes within a cloud, and falls to the ground in this frozen form, one or a grouping of many tiny ice crystals. Sleet is snow that melts when it falls through a patch of warmer air. It then refreezes, as it hits cooler air, hitting the ground as small ice pellets. Freezing rain occurs when the falling snow meets a warm air mass, melts, and hits the ground as rain. Oftentimes refreezing on the surface of the ground and other objects due to their colder temperatures. A layer of ice is the result, making even walking treacherous.
     One of the most serious winter weather conditions is the blizzard. Many people believe the blizzard to be large accumulations of snow accompanied by wind. This, in fact, is true, but snow fall is not what actually defines a blizzard. It is the wind. A blizzard warning can be issued when winds, 35 MPH or greater, and snow (many times snow that has already fallen, and is being lifted back into the air) create low wind chills (what the outside temperature actually feels like when wind is factored into the equation), and white out conditions (visibility of less than 1/4 mile). Blizzard conditions are life threatening, and people should take shelter in a well insulated structure.

     All of these types of winter weather can develop into very serious situations. People should stay informed of changing weather conditions through their local TV and radio stations. Winter weather advisories, winter storm watches and warnings, and blizzard warnings are all possible forecasts that could be issued. Winter weather advisories announce that winter weather is a possibility in a given area, and may cause significant inconveniences and hazards. Winter storm watches are used to alert the public of an impending winter storm that is expected to hit the given area within 36-48 hours, hopefully allowing people time to prepare for what could become a dangerous weather situation. A winter storm warning indicates that a magor winter weather situation is happening or will happen within the next 24 hours. People should already be prepared and should be ready to take cover as weather conditions worsen.


  All information from the "Winter Emergencies" collected from The American Red Cross and NWS/NOAA



 
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