Winter weather watches, warnings, advisories: What’s the difference?

DENVER (KDVR) — Winter weather watches, warnings and advisories are issued in Colorado every winter, but do you know the difference?

First, a winter storm watch is issued within three days of winter conditions impacting an area. When a watch is issued, details like timing and intensity are still coming together.

As the winter storm’s impacts get closer, that watch will either become a winter storm warning or a winter weather advisory.

Winter storm warnings for lower elevations in Colorado, like the Denver metro, mean that heavy snowfall could accumulate to 6 inches or more within 12 hours, or 8 inches or more in 24 hours. In the mountains, a winter storm warning is issued when 8 inches of snow is expected to accumulate in 12 hours, or 12 inches or more snowfall is to accumulate in 24 hours.

Winter weather advisories have a lower threshold for snowfall. In lower elevations, a winter weather advisory is issued for 3-6 inches of snowfall in 12 hours. In the mountains, advisories are issued for totals closer to 4-8 inches in 12 hours.

Regardless of whether a winter watch, warning or advisory is issued for an area, the main impact is usually difficult travel because of blowing and accumulating snowfall.

A Pinpoint Weather Alert Day has been issued for Saturday for the same reason that winter weather advisories and winter storm warnings are in effect Friday evening through Saturday. Bands of heavy, wet snow will fall and make travel very difficult across the Front Range.

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