Skip to main content

Knowing Your Winter Weather Terms, Part Of Bracing For The Cold Season

Learning common weather terms to prepare for severe winter weather or other emergencies can prevent exposure to cold weather hazards.


“There’s a reason the National Weather Service describes winter storms as ‘deceptive killers.’ Severe weather doesn’t directly cause injury and death, but it can cause accidents on icy roads or hypothermia from prolonged exposure to cold,” said Gina Peek, Oklahoma State University Extension housing and consumer specialist.


Start by becoming familiar with common weather-related terms such as winter storm watch, winter storm warning, blizzard, sleet and freezing rain, Peek said. Winter storm watches signal storms are possible locally, while winter storm warnings mean storms are occurring or will soon. Meanwhile, freezing rain is rain that freezes when it hits the ground. By contrast, sleet is rain that is frozen before it hits the ground. Both can cause slippery roads and walkways. A blizzard warning means sustained or frequent winds of 35 miles per hour or more with a lot of falling or blowing snow expected for three or more hours.


In addition to learning key terms, take advantage of today’s technology by downloading helpful weather apps on a phone or tablet for up-to-date forecasts and alerts. Other apps, such as those offered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the American Red Cross, provide information on shelters, first aid and assistance with recovery.


In the event a storm does hit, be prepared with enough supplies, food, water and shelter for at least five days. Do not forget to include pets and other animals in preparations.


“Do you have rock salt, sand and a shovel or other snow removal equipment?” Peek said. “Check to be sure there’s sufficient heating fuel, and be ready to layer on hats, gloves and scarves for warmth if the power goes out and there is no heat.”


Finally, Peek advised families to have a communications plan.


“Know the emergency plans at public schools and where you work,” she said. “Each family member also should be familiar with what to do if a storm hits when they are home alone.”


Back To Top