Skip Maine state header navigation

Agencies | Online Services | Help

Skip First Level Navigation | Skip All Navigation

MEMA Home > Programs> Communication> News > Winter Weather Awareness: The Basics

Winter Weather Awareness: The Basics


October 31, 2011


Winter Weather Awareness Week

The National Weather Service offices that serve New England have declared the week of October 31st through November 4th, 2011 WINTER WEATHER AWARENESS WEEK. This Winter Weather message is courtesy of the National Weather Service Office in Gray, Maine.

Of course, this weekend's storm made us all very aware of winter!

For those who live in New England, winter weather is a part of life from November through March -- and on rare occasions, the end of October! We've already had our first taste of winter weather, and soon, snow, sleet, freezing rain, cold temperatures, and cold wind chill temperatures will be common occurrences. While most of the time these weather elements are only a nuisance to our daily routines, at times they can produce hazardous or life-threatening situations for those who are not prepared, or for those who do not take the proper precautions.

In Maine, normal snowfall averages from 50 to 70 inches along the coast, but gradually increases as you move inland to more than 140 inches in the mountains. In northern Maine, 100 to 120 inches of snow falls annually. The lesser amounts in coastal areas are partly a result of a frequent change-over to sleet, freezing rain or rain during many well-developed winter storms. To those driving or walking, this mixture of precipitation can be even more dangerous than snow.

As residents of Maine and New Hampshire are all aware from January 1998 and December 2008, large accumulations of freezing rain can cause disastrous conditions. High winds, cold temperatures, cold wind chill temperatures, and coastal flooding can also accompany or follow winter storms.

To alert the public to potentially dangerous winter weather events or situations, the National Weather Service issues OUTLOOKS, WATCHES, WARNINGS, and ADVISORIES. Keep the following general definitions in mind.

Hazardous Weather Outlook

A HAZARDOUS WEATHER OUTLOOK is issued daily by National Weather Service offices across the country to alert the public to the potential for any hazardous weather during the next 7 days (including significant winter storms, high wind, coastal flooding, and extreme temperatures). Due to the uncertainty in predicting the strength and path of a winter storm more than several days in advance, the exact impact on the area (if any) will not be known.

In addition, National Weather Service offices may issue SPECIAL WEATHER STATEMENTS highlighting the potential impact of a major winter storm.


WATCHES are issued to alert the public that dangerous winter conditions are possible in the within the next 24 to 60 hours. Products include: WINTER STORM WATCHES, HIGH WIND WATCHES, and COASTAL FLOOD WATCHES.


WARNINGS are issued to alert the public that dangerous winter conditions are likely to occur within the next 6 to 36 hours or are occurring now. Products include WINTER STORM WARNING, ICE STORM WARNING, BLIZZARD WARNING, HIGH WIND WARNING, WIND CHILL WARNING, and COASTAL FLOOD WARNING.


An ADVISORY is issued to alert the public that winter conditions are expected to cause a significant inconvenience and may be hazardous. If caution is exercised, these situations should not be life threatening. Products include WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY, FREEZING RAIN ADVISORY, WIND ADVISORY, and WIND CHILL ADVISORY.

MEMA carries National Weather Service Watches, Warnings and Advisories on its website:

In addition, weather and safety information can always be found on National Weather Service websites:

Question of the Day

What is the leading cause of death in winter storms?



Last update: 07/20/10