Image Courtesy: Kecko

Winter Weather Hazards

By Jennifer Wojcicki @yourmetjenny December 18, 2015 6:11 am CST

Winter poses a variety of threats to the public, ranging from extreme cold to black ice, even to house fires from heaters. With winter quickly approaching and the imminent chances of mixed precipitation, it’s good to differentiate between a few terms. The main hazards associated with winter storms are heavy snowfall, high winds, extreme cold, and freezing rain or sleet mixtures. All of these can impact a region for days and can have deadly outcomes. Blizzards have the ability to trap people in their vehicles or homes with little to no supplies. Extreme cold and wind chills can lead to hypothermia. Heavy snow drifts can cause utilities to malfunction.

Know Your Terms

Blizzard- a severe snowstorm of blowing and/or falling snow, with winds of 35mph or higher, creating low visibilities to less than a quarter of a mile for at least three hours.

Wind Chill- the apparent temperature perceived by the body when wind is factored into the equation.

Freezing Rain- made from liquid droplets from a layer of warmer air aloft, this is rain that freezes on contact with surfaces that have temperatures below freezing.

Sleet- softer than hail, this is rain or melted snow that falls through a very short layer of warm air, then begins to refreeze while falling through a colder layer of air before it reaches the ground.

The photo below shows how layers of the atmosphere affect the type of precipitation that we observe at the surface.

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