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Insight from WFPD: What does it all mean, be aware of winter terms

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The past week's weather sparked a number of announcements relating to watches, warnings, advisories and some road closures. To help you better understand what conditions must currently exist or be forecast to generate a particular announcement please review the following information from the Weather Service and the North Dakota Department of Transportation.

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The National Weather Service uses specific winter weather terms to ensure that people know what to expect in the coming days and hours.

Winter Storm Watch means that severe winter conditions, such as heavy snow and/or ice, may affect your area, but its occurrence, location and timing are still uncertain. A winter storm watch is issued to provide 12 to 36 hours notice of the possibility of severe winter weather with the intention of providing enough lead time so those who need to set plans in motion can do so.

A watch is upgraded to a Winter Storm Warning when 4 or more inches of snow or sleet is expected in the next 12 hours, or 6 or more inches in 24 hours, or 1/4 inch or more of ice accretion is expected.

Winter Weather Advisories inform you that winter weather conditions are expected to cause significant inconveniences that may be hazardous. If caution is exercised, advisory situations should not become life-threatening.

Blizzard Warning means that snow and strong winds will combine to produce a blinding snow (near zero visibility), deep drifts, and life-threatening wind chill. Be sure to listen carefully to the radio, television, and NOAA Weather Radio for the latest winter storm watches, warnings, and advisories. For additional information on this story, visit the Winter Weather Awareness web page at: http://www.weather.gov/om/winter.

The following terms will be used to relate to winter road conditions, to maintain consistency, and keep the traveling public well informed. The NDDOT will utilize these terms to inform the public about road conditions that warrant increased awareness.

Travel Alerts are issued to alert motorists that areas of challenging winter weather driving conditions may be encountered on roadways. Conditions are such that motorists can still travel; however, they should be aware that rapidly changing conditions may result in travel delays due to reduced speeds and visibility.

No Travel Advisories are issued when conditions warrant no travel but not a road closure. No Travel Advisories have the potential to change to a Road Closure if conditions deteriorate. No Travel Advisories are issued for public safety to encourage motorists not to venture out onto the roads. Motorists are urged to take No Travel Advisories seriously.  Conditions change often during a storm event and motorists may become stranded if they are caught between destinations.

Roads are Closed when conditions create a life-threatening danger to motorists. The roadway is impassable and it is against the law to drive past a road closure device on a closed road. Motorists should obey road closures, even when a sign or a gate is not present. More information can be found at: http://www.dot.nd.gov/roadreport/roadreport/roadreportinfo.asp

Weather Warnings or Travel Warnings are not only given for rural areas. These same warnings apply to our urban setting as well. If you are caught outdoors or your vehicle becomes disabled due to an accident or mechanical failure you can quickly become a cold weather casualty. Monitor the weather to become aware of forecasted conditions. North Dakota weather can change very quickly. Let someone know where you are going and when you will be back. Dress appropriately for the weather conditions and have a survival kit in your vehicle. Be informed, be prepared and stay alive.

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