Winter weather related Warnings, Watches and Advisories are issued by your local National Weather Service office. Each office knows the local area and will issue Warnings, Watches or Advisories based on local criteria. For example, the amount of snow that triggers a “Winter Storm Warning” in the Northern Plains is typically much higher than the amount needed to trigger a “Winter Storm Warning” in the Southeast:

Warnings: Take Action!

Blizzard Warnigs

Winter Storm Warnings

Wind Chill Warnings

Lake Effect Snow Warnings

Snow Squall Warning

Watches: Be Prepared

Blizzard Watches

Winter Storm Watches

Wind Chill Watches

Lake Effect Snow Watches

Advisories: Be Aware

Winter Weather Advisories

Freezing Rain Advisories

Wind Chill Advisories

Lake Effect Snow Advisory.

Key Terms

Freezing Rain: Rain that freezes when it hits a surface; creating a coating of ice on roads, walkways, trees and power lines.

Sleet: Rain that turns to ice pellets before reaching the ground. Sleet also causes moisture on roads to freeze and become slippery.

Wind Chill: A measure of how cold people feel due to the combined effect of wind and cold temperatures; the Wind Chill Index is based on the rate of heat loss from exposed skin. Both cold temperatures and wind remove heat from the body; as the wind speed increases during cold conditions, a body loses heat more quickly. Eventually, the internal body temperature also falls and hypothermia can develop. Animals also feel the effects of wind chill, but inanimate objects, such as vehicles and buildings, do not. They will only cool to the actual air temperature, although much faster during windy conditions.

Before a Winter Storm

Before the storm strikes, make sure your home, office and vehicles are stocked with the supplies you might need. Know how to dress for varying degrees of cold weather.

At Home and Work.

Your primary concerns at home or work during a winter storm are loss of heat, power and telephone service and a shortage of supplies if storm conditions continue for more than a day. In either place, you should have Home & Work Winter Storm Survival Kit.

In Vehicles.

Before you leave the house, call 511 for the latest traffic weather conditions. TAKE IT SLOW IN THE SNOW.

Fully check and winterize your vehicle before the winter season begins. Carry a Car Winter Storm Survival Kit.

On the Farm, Pet Owners.

Move animals to sheltered areas or bring pets inside.

Haul extra feed to nearby feeding areas.

Have water available. Most animals die from dehydration in winter storms.

Make sure pets have plenty of food and water and a warm shelter

During a Winter Storm

When caught in a winter storm, there are life saving actions you can take to protect yourself outside, in a vehicle and inside your home or office.


Find Shelter.

When There Is No Shelter Nearby: Build a lean-to, windbreak or snow cave for protection from the wind.

Melt Snow for Drinking Water: Eating unmelted snow will lower your body temperature.

Exercise: From time to time, move arms, legs, fingers and toes vigorously to keep blood circulating.

Slow Down
Make sure your vehicle is completely clear of ice or snow before starting the trip. Let someone know where you are going and what route you will take. Don’t leave the house without the following a fully charged mobile phone and car charger and a emergency supplies kit in your car.
Slow Down
If your car gets stuck during a storm, stay in the vehicle! Run the motor about 10 minutes each hour for heat. While running the motor, open the window a little for fresh air to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. Clear snow from the exhaust pipe to avoid gas poisoning. Turn on the dome light at night when running the engine. After snow stops falling, raise the hood to indicate you need help.


Stay Inside: When using heat from a fire place, wood stove, space heater, etc., use fire safeguards and properly ventilate. If you have a gas furnace, make sure it is not blocked by a snowdrift as soon as it’s safe to go out. If you have an upstairs gas furnace which vents out the roof, you may need to turn off the upstairs unit until the snow melts off your roof.


Tornado Watch: Be Prepared


Tornadoes are possible in and near the watch area. Review and discuss your emergency plans and check supplies and your safe room. 

Be ready to act quickly if NWS issues a warning or you suspect a tornado is approaching. Acting early helps save lives! 

Watches are issued by the Storm Prediction Center for counties where tornadoes may occur. The watch area is typically large, covering numerous counties or even states. 

Tornado Warning: Take Action

 Tornado Warning: Take Action! 

A tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. There is imminent danger to life and property. Move to an interior room on the lowest floor of a sturdy shelter. Avoid windows. 

If you are in a mobile home, a vehicle or outdoors, move to the closest substantial shelter and cover your head to avoid flying debris. Local NWS offices issue warnings. 

Warnings typically encompass a much smaller area, around the size of a city or small county. Warnings are issued when a tornado is spotted on the ground or identified by a forecaster on radar. 

Before a TORNADO

Be Weather-Ready

Check the forecast often to see if a tornado is coming. Listen to local news or a NOAA Weather Radio to stay informed about tornado watches and warnings.

Stay Notified

Know how to get warnings. Some communities have outdoor sirens. Others depend on news and smart phones to alert residents of severe storms capable of producing tornadoes

Create a Plan

Have a family plan that includes an emergency meeting place and shelter spaces. Pick a safe room in your home, such as a basement, storm cellar or an interior room on the lowest floor with no windows.

Practice Your Plan

Conduct a drill regularly so everyone knows what to do if a tornado is approaching. Make sure all family members know where to go when a tornado warning is issued. Don’t forget pets if time allows.

Prepare Your Home

Consider having your safe room reinforced. You can find plans for reinforcing an interior room to provide better protection at

Help Your Neighbor

Encourage your loved ones to prepare for the possibility of tornadoes. Take CPR training so you can help if someone is hurt.

During a tornado

Stay Weather-Ready: Continue to listen to local news or a NOAA Weather Radio to stay updated about tornado watches and warnings. 

At Your House

If you are in a tornado warning area, go to your basement, safe room or an interior room away from windows. Don’t forget pets if time allows. 


At Your Workplace/School

Follow your tornado drill and proceed to your tornado shelter quickly and calmly. Stay away from windows and do not go to large open rooms such as cafeterias, gymnasiums or auditoriums. 



Seek shelter inside a sturdy building immediately if a tornado is approaching. Sheds and storage facilities are NOT safe. 

In a Vehicle

Being in a vehicle during a tornado is NOT safe. The best course of action is to drive to the closest shelter. If you are unable to make it to a safe shelter, either get down in your car and cover your head, or abandon your car and seek shelter in a low lying area such as a ditch or ravine. 

After a tornado

Stay Informed

Keep listening to local news or NOAA Weather Radio for updates about more tornado watches and warnings that may be coming. The next round of thunderstorms may bring more tornadoes.

Contact Your Family and Loved Ones

Let your family and close friends know you are okay so they can help spread the word. Send text messages or post updates on social media. These posts are more reliable forms of communication than phone calls.

Assess The Damage

After the tornado threat has ended, check for property damage. When walking through storm damage, wear long pants, a long-sleeved shirt and sturdy shoes. Contact utilities if you see power lines down. Stay out of damaged buildings. Be aware of insurance scammers.

Help Your Neighbor

If you see someone injured, call 911. Then, if you are trained, provide firstaid until emergency responders arrive.