This is part two, to the first post of Winter Weather Preparedness. Here we will break down winter hazards, what to look for, and the products the National Weather Service puts out to warn the public.
So far this season we’ve seen our first snow already but it has long since melted away, but snow is still possible farther on the horizon.
A few hazards that don’t receive much thought is, what to do with the first snow, the frequency of winter fog, and glare from fresh snow.
As snow stays on the ground, it’s temperature at the warmest is about 32ºF. When air that is slightly warmer, fog can quickly form. This can cause driving hazards, be sure to slow down, use your low-beam headlights, and leave extra distance between you and other cars.
With the sun setting closer to the rush hour, having extra glare with snow on the ground becomes a bigger issue. Fresh snow on the ground with the sun at lower angles causes extra glare from above and below. This can make driving extra hazardous, be sure to slow down, use your sunglasses or car’s visor, and leave extra distance between you and cars around you.
Even though we have seen our first snow totals of the season, most of it has melted again leaving the next snow fall to act as the next first snow. Much like glare and fog, when driving, slow down, leave extra distance between you and other cars, as well as don’t use cruise control. Being able to quickly react and drive a bit slower is best when snow is fresh and people aren’t fully adjusted to driving with snow on the ground again.
Next, we will look at some more noticeable hazards such as bridges and black ice.
Bridges can cause dangerous driving conditions during the winter as it is completely surrounded by cold air and not like roads that are on the ground and still receiving heat from the Earth. The cold, frigid air around bridges can cause freezing on it’s surfaces before normal roads see frozen surfaces. Be careful of uneven frozen patches, with that try not to change speeds and just slow down before going on the bridge.
Black ice can be extremely dangerous when it forms. It frequently occurs overnight when the snow has melted or if there was light rain earlier in the day, and the overnight temperatures freeze the standing layer of water. Black ice is dangerous due to how hard it is to spot. The best way to be ready for black ice is to ask yourself, has it rained recently/has snow been melting, is it below freezing, and does the road look a little extra shiny. If yes, its very possible black ice is present and go slow and drive with caution.
Lastly, lets break down the National Weather Service winter products, what they mean, and what the criteria is for their issuance.
Firstly these are the National Weather Service’s Advisories.
These are issued when these conditions are foretasted to occur and caution should be taken.
A watch is issued when conditions are favorable for the event to occur. Much like during severe weather season think of this as the cupcake ingredients example. A watch is when the “ingredients” or conditions are present for something to happen. A warning is when the event is ongoing and the “ingredients” or conditions has come together to make it happen.
Lastly, these 5 products are what the National Weather Service will issue when the event is ongoing or will occur for its viewing area. When these are issued it is necessary to take caution and avoid travel if possible.