The best tool you can have to stay safe and warm in severe winter weather is being aware of what to prepare for. Investing in a NOAA weather emergency alert radio keeps you informed on conditions not only in your local area, but also around the nation. Before severe winter weather hits your area, get to know NOAA and the differences in terminology used by meteorologists to describe a weather event.
First, what is NOAA? NOAA is the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration which is part of the U.S. Department of Commerce. It operates the National Weather Service providing around the clock weather forecasts and warnings “for the protection of life and property and enhancement of the national economy.” NOAA, working with the FCC, uses the Emergency Alert System to issue warnings and watches, not only for severe weather, but also for issues relating to public safety and national security.
NOAA broadcasts continuous updates on a network of radio stations around the country called NOAA Weather Radio (NWR) All Hazards. Not only does NOAA report weather, but also information on natural disasters such as avalanches and earthquakes, as well as environmental problems such as oil spills and chemical explosions, along with Amber alerts. NWR uses VHF frequencies from 162.400 to 162.550 MHz. However, you cannot hear these broadcasts on regular AM/FM radio receivers.
To receive continuous coverage, you must purchase a special receiver. NOAA recommends purchasing a receiver with the NOAA NWR All Hazards logo on it. Better receivers:
- Have a tone alarm that alerts you of a broadcast even if the radio receiver is turned off
- SAME (Specific Alert Message Encoding) technology that allows you to localize your alerts
- Battery backup
- Aan external antenna jack
- Aan external device jack
The National Weather Service has a glossary of terms you will hear often in broadcasts and on your local news.
Outlook: A three to five-day advance warning that winter weather is likely.
Watch: Winter weather is likely to happen, usually predicted within 12 hours.
Advisory: Winter precipitation is most likely to fall within 12 hours, but expected not to exceed a certain amount. Advisories are less serious than warnings.
Warning: Winter weather and storms are already occurring.
Blizzard: Defined by 35 mph or higher winds, reduced visibility to ¼-mile or less, and conditions will remain bad for at least three hours.
How do you stay on top of local weather alerts? Share it with us in the comment section below.