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MEMA Home > Programs> Communication> News > Winter Weather Awareness: Winds, Flooding and Fog

Winter Weather Awareness: Winds, Flooding and Fog


October 29, 2009


The National Weather Service offices that serve New England have declared the week of October 26th through October 30th, 2009 WINTER WEATHER AWARENESS WEEK. This Winter Weather message is courtesy of the National Weather Service Forecast Offices in Gray and Caribou, Maine.

High Wind, Coastal Flooding and Dense Fog Threats

In addition to snow, sleet, freezing rain and rain, winter storms bring the threat of high winds and coastal flooding to northern New England. Dense fog, caused by warm air moving over cold snow-covered ground, is also a frequent hazard in northern New England during the winter and early spring.

High winds

High winds can occur before, during, and after major winter storms and can make driving difficult and dangerous, especially if you drive a high profile vehicle. If your vehicle starts to swerve due to the wind, slow down. High winds can cause snow to blow and drift, reducing visibilities and causing slippery conditions on the roadways. Also, high winds bring increased danger from falling trees, which can lead to power outages.

To alert the public to potentially dangerous wind events, the National Weather Service issues HIGH WIND WATCHES, HIGH WIND WARNINGS, and WIND ADVISORIES. These alerts are based on the following criteria.

  • HIGH WIND WATCH: Sustained winds of 40 mph or greater or frequent gusts to 58 mph or greater are possible within the next 24 to 48 hours.
  • HIGH WIND WARNING - Sustained winds of 40 mph or greater or frequent gusts to 58 mph or greater are likely within the next 24 hours.
  • WIND ADVISORY: Sustained winds of 31 to 39 mph or frequent gusts to between 46 and 57 mph are likely within the next 24 hours.

In addition, WINTER WEATHER ADVISORIES are issued when blowing and drifting snow reduces visibilities to 1/4 mile or less creating a significant hazard on the roadways.

Coastal flooding and beach erosion

Coastal flooding can precede or accompany major winter storms. Strong south, southeast, east, and northeast winds can cause water to pile up along the Maine and New Hampshire coastlines causing tide levels to rise above normal. In addition to abnormally high tides, large waves associated with a storm can cause substantial beach erosion along the coastline.

To alert the public to the potential for coastal flooding, the National Weather Service issues COASTAL FLOOD WATCHES and COASTAL FLOOD WARNINGS. In determining the potential threat from a particular storm, the National Weather Service considers the timing and height of the normal tides, the timing of the storm, and the expected storm surge that will accompany the storm.

  • COASTAL FLOOD WATCH: Coastal flooding possible within the next 24 to 48 hours.
  • COASTAL FLOOD WARNING: Coastal flooding likely within the next 24 hours.

Note that beach erosion can occur from large storm-generated waves even though the tide levels may not be above flood levels. In these cases, the likelihood and severity of any beach erosion is addressed in the public forecast product.

Dense fog

During late winter and early spring, warm air moving northward from areas to our south, often encounters the cold snow-covered ground in northern New England. This combination of warm air moving over a cold surface often results in the formation of dense fog. Precipitation will also enhance the likelihood of dense fog formation. Motorists should be extremely careful when driving in these conditions. Visibilities may change from good to near-zero visibility in a matter of feet. In some cases, the fog may be so dense that it may be difficult to even see the edge of the road. In addition, dense fog may hide other hazards such as deer or moose in the roadway, stopped motorists, or flooding. Be especially careful at night.

To alert the public to these dangerous conditions, the National Weather Service issues DENSE FOG ADVISORIES. DENSE FOG ADVISORIES are issued for cases when widespread dense fog creates near-zero visibility over a large area.

More weather and safety information can always be found on National Weather Service websites:

See also:



Lynette Miller


Last update: 07/20/10