WENY News - Winter Warn 2017 NWS Simplification to Winter Alerts

Winter Warn 2017 NWS Simplification to Winter Alerts

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Binghamton, NY (WENY) -- With the winter weather season quickly approaching The National Weather Service is rolling out changes to the way they deliver winter weather alerts.  It’s all about simplifying the process and making it easier for the public to better understand winter risks. 

Dave Nicosia, Warning Coordination Meteorologist (WCM) of the National Weather Service in Binghamton New York says "we have a lot of different weather watches, warnings and advisories and for several years they’ve had a team at the national level look at what’s the best way to communicate weather warnings to the public and they came up with….we need to simplify."

Before we get into the changes, let’s go over the differences between advisories, watches and warnings.

An advisory is issued when there is a high likelihood of winter weather inconveniences.  Usually these events are low impact, but can cause disruption to travel.  A watch is issued when there is the potential, not a certainty… of a significant winter weather event.  These are usually issued a couple days prior to the event.  A warning is issued when there is a high likelihood of a significant winter weather event.  These are for high impact, life threatening storms.

So, to help avoid confusion moving forward, the National Weather Service will consolidate most types of advisories.

Nicosia also says that “there will no longer be a lake effect snow advisory, there will no longer be a freezing rain advisory.  They will all be under a winter weather advisory.  We will mention it’s a winter weather advisory for lake effect snow or a winter weather advisory for freezing rain or just a generic winter weather advisory for a combination of what I just talked about."

So, moving forward, the only types of advisories you’ll see from the weather service this winter would be winter weather advisories or a wind chill advisory.  Down considerably from the types of advisories issued in the past.

The same consolidation process has also been applied to the types of watches issued.

“So we are just going to be issuing winter storm watches and that includes everything…even if there’s a potential blizzard, it’ll be a winter storm watch for potential blizzard conditions instead of a blizzard watch.  Same thing for an ice storm, it’ll be a winter storm watch for a potential ice storm, winter storm watch for potential lake effect snowstorm." says Nicosia.

While most types of advisories and watches have been consolidated into either a winter weather advisory or a winter storm watch, not many changes have been made to the types of warnings issued.  For instance, if a high impact winter storm is forecast, the weather service will still issue warnings such as a lake effect snow warning, a blizzard warning or an ice storm warning.  If it’s simply a heavy snow event a winter storm warning would be issued.

Last, but not least, another new product you’ll see from the National Weather Service this year is a snow squall warning.  Unlike the previous changes mentioned, the snow squall warnings will only be issued by 7 national weather service offices this winter, including the National weather service out of Binghamton, State College and Buffalo.  The newly created snow squall warnings will be used nation-wide next year.

Nicosia says "It covers anytime we have a squall that reduces visibility to near zero, white-out conditions, rapid accumulation of snow.  Makes the roads extremely slippery, but it may only last twenty to thirty minutes.  It’s very analogous to a severe thunderstorm warning" and that “It’ll be primarily to warn motorists that you got a squall coming and conditions are gonna be really bad for a short period of time.  The idea is we can get people to either be aware that a squall is coming and they can get off the roads or maybe they delay their travel just until the squall passes”.

The main goal of this new product issued by the weather service is to help save lives.  Winter weather driving fatalities rate most deadly compared to those resulting from tornadoes or even hurricanes annually.

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