The first snow showers of the season are possible across NE Ohio and NW Pennsylvania early next week.

Before we know it, the National Weather Service offices in Cleveland and Pittsburgh will begin issuing Winter Weather Advisories, Winter Storm Watches and Winter Storm Warning. It is important to educate yourself and know the difference between these types of winter alerts so you know how to prepare when one is issued.  

What is the difference between an Advisory, a Watch, and a Warning? 

When a Winter Weather Advisory is issued, wintry elements are expected across the area, but conditions aren’t expected to be hazardous enough to meet warning criteria. When an advisory is issued, you should be aware and be prepared for travel difficulties. Winter Weather Advisories are usually issued within 36 hours of the winter weather event.  

When a Winter Storm Watch is issued, conditions are favorable for a significant winter storm event, whether it’s heavy snow, sleet or ice. Winter storm watches are usually issued within 36 hours of the winter weather event, to give you time to prepare.  

A Winter Storm Warning means that the confidence in an impactful winter storm is high and coming within the next 24 hours. A winter storm will produce heavy snow, sleet or freezing rain and will cause significant impacts and hazardous travel conditions.  

A winter weather alert is issued by your local National Weather Service office and is based on different criteria. What criteria do the NWS Cleveland office and the NWS Pittsburgh office use?

When does the National Weather Service Office in Cleveland issue Advisories, Watches, and Warnings? 

In our area, the National Weather Service Office in Cleveland issues winter weather alerts for Trumbull and Mahoning counties.  

Here are the criteria the NWS office in Cleveland uses to issue winter alerts across the area.  

Winter Weather Advisory 

  • Issued when snowfall of 4 to 6 inches is expected in 12 hours or ice accumulation of .25 inches.

Winter Storm Watch 

  • Issued when snowfall of 6 inches or more is expected in 12 hours, snowfall of 8 inches or more is expected in 24 hours, or ice accumulation of .25 inches or more.
  • Issued when confidence in the forecast is at 50%.

Winter Storm Warning 

  • Issued when snowfall of 6 inches or more is expected over 12 hours, snowfall of 8 inches or more is expected over 24 hours, or ice accumulation of .25 inches or more.
  • Issued when confidence in the forecast is at 80%.

When does the National Weather Service Office in Pittsburgh issue Advisories, Watches, and Warnings? 

In our area, the National Weather Service Office in Pittsburgh issues winter weather alerts for Mercer, Lawrence and Columbiana counties. 

Here are the criteria the NWS office in Pittsburgh uses to issue winter alerts across the area. 

Winter Weather Advisory 

  • Issued when snowfall of at least 3 inches is expected in 12 hours, or ice accumulations less than .25 inches.

Winter Storm Watch  

  • Potential for a blizzard, heavy snowfall, or ice storm within the next 18-48 hours.  
  • Issued when snowfall of 6 inches or more is expected in 12 hours, snowfall of 8 inches or more is expected in 24 hours, or ice accumulation of .25 inches. 
  • Issued when confidence in the forecast is at 50%.

Winter Storm Warning  

  • Issued when snowfall of 6 inches or greater in 12 hours or 8 inches or more of snowfall in 24 hours, or ice accumulations of .25 inches or more. 

You can always stay up to date with the forecast and see when snow is possible here.