Stay Weather Aware! Understand the words behind the weather and how to react during severe storms.
When severe weather is happening, seconds can save lives. We want you to stay Weather Aware in all severe situations. In this guide, we will define the basics of winter weather.
Here are the topics we will cover.
- Types of winter precipitation
- Winter weather colors
- Wind chill
- Ice storms
1. Types of winter precipitation
- Freezing rain: Rain that freezes when it hits the ground, creating a coating of ice on roads, walkways, trees and power lines.
- Sleet: Rain that falls through cold air and turns to ice pellets before reaching the ground. Sleet also causes moisture on roads to freeze and become slippery.
- Snow: Moisture that forms and crystalizes in the clouds due to freezing temperatures across altitudes.
Understanding different winter precipitation can help you anticipate driving conditions and remain safe. You can also check road conditions in Missouri on the MODOT Traveler Information Map, and in Kansas on KanDrive.
2. Winter weather colors
On a radar, winter precipitation has three main color palettes:
- Rain (Green to Red): Green is the lightest rainfall, yellow is medium and red is heavy.
- Mix (Pink): Mixed precipitation is graded on different shades of pink. The darker, the heavier. Mix precipitation includes freezing rain, sleet, or rain and snow together.
- Snow (White to blue): White is the lightest snowfall, blue is the heaviest.
Winter weather warnings indicate a variety forecasted winter weather based on severity and probability. The warnings encompass ice storms, blizzards, wind chill and more.
- Winter Storm Warning: This is the most pressing warning issued by the National Weather Service. Wintery precipitation and conditions are expected with significant impacts.
- Winter Storm Watch: This is a step down from the Winter Storm Warning. Wintry conditions are expected and you should be prepared.
- Winter Weather Advisory: This is the lower-level warning, involving expected light conditions, slick travel and winds. Remain cautious.
3. Wind chill
Wind chill is the measured “feels like” temperature based on air temperature and wind speed. As you exist in a space in colder air, your body creates a layer of heat around your body as it escapes. However, wind removes that “bubble” of warmth, causing faster heat loss. Severe heat loss can cause health conditions like frostbite.
Here’s the wind chill chart provided by the National Weather Service:
4. Ice storms
Ice storms, fueled by freezing rain and sleet, can be extremely hazardous in a number of ways. Be sure to remain aware of your risk and your surroundings when interacting with the product of ice storms.
- Black ice: Defined by the National Weather Service as deadly, patchy ice on roadways or other transportation surfaces that cannot easily be seen. The best way to avoid it is by not driving at all, especially in the morning after melted ice or snow from the day before has had a chance to refreeze overnight.
- Tree damage: Tree limbs can weigh up to 30 times more than normal when coated in ice, causing branches to bend and break. Not only does this damage the tree, but heavy falling branches are very dangerous to anything underneath, including parked cars and people.
- Power outages: Even a thin layer of ice coating power lines can create power outages. Outages during freezing temperatures can be very hazardous. Be prepared for outages and have a plan to stay warm, full and safe in the event of no power.