COLD Weather Alert - Winter Weather

School snow days can mean play days if you're a kid! But before you build your first snowman, learn a little about winter weather in Chicago. Winter weather can be dangerous. Don't be caught with your boots off - help your family prepare now for the winter.

Types of winter weather ...


FLURRIES - Light snow falling for a short time. A light dusting or no snow on the ground expected.
SHOWERS - Snow falling at different speeds for short periods of time. Some snow on the ground is possible.
SQUALLS - Brief, strong snow showers with strong, gusty winds. May leave quite a bit of snow on the ground.
BLOWING SNOW - Wind-driven snow that makes it hard to see and causes snowdrifts. Blowing snow may be snow that is falling and/or loose snow on the ground picked up by the wind.
BLIZZARD - Winds over 35 mph with snow and blowing snow. Visibility is near zero - it's very hard to see.


Raindrops that freeze into ice pellets before reaching the ground. Sleet usually bounces when it hits instead of sticking, but it can build up and become slippery and dangerous for people driving.

Freezing Rain

Rain that falls onto a cold surface (with a temperature below freezing). The rain freezes the surface, whether it's a tree, a car or a road, and forms a coating of ice. This coating is dangerous and slippery. The added weight of the ice can break trees and power lines.

Dress to fit the season ...
If you go outside to play after a snowstorm, wear loose-fitting, lightweight, warm clothing in several layers. The air trapped between the layers helps to keep you warm - it gives you insulation. Layers can be removed to avoid perspiration and the chill it can cause. Your jacket should be water repellent and hooded. Wear a hat, too. Cover your mouth with a scarf to protect your lungs from extreme cold. Wear mittens or gloves. Stay dry.

Know the lingo ...
Stay informed by listening to radio or television, or to NOAA Weather Radio, for the latest winter storm watches, warnings and advisories. Here's what these terms mean:

- Severe winter conditions, such as heavy snow and/or ice, are possible within the next day or two. Prepare now!
WINTER STORM WARNING - Severe winter conditions have begun or are about to begin in your area. Stay indoors!
BLIZZARD WARNING - Snow and strong winds will combine to produce a blinding snow (near zero visibility), deep drifts and life-threatening wind chill. Go inside immediately!
WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY - Winter weather conditions are expected to cause problems and may be dangerous. With caution, these situations should not become life- threatening. The greatest hazard is often to people who are driving.

Know the Dangers
When you are outside during cold weather, you need to be careful. It's extremely important to:

  • dress warmly
  • stay dry
  • come inside before you get too cold or tired

or you can suffer from one of these life-threatening conditions:

- Frostbite is damage that happens to your skin and body when it is exposed to cold for too long. Hands, feet, ears and noses are often frostbitten. These areas becomes pale, cold and hard and may be numb or achy. If damage is too great, the affected area must be removed by a doctor.
HYPOTHERMIA - This happens when the core temperature of your body drops below 95 degrees. (Your body temperature is normally 98.6 degrees.) When your temperature gets that low, your body can't function; shivering and poor coordination lead to unconsciousness and, if untreated, death.
When you are out and about ...
The best way to stay safe in a snowstorm is to stay inside. Staying outside for long periods of time can expose you to severe cold, putting you at risk of frostbite or hypothermia. Also, it is easy to become confused in a snowstorm and get lost.

Take breaks ...

Come inside often for warm-up breaks. If you start to shiver a lot or get very tired, or if your nose, fingers, toes or ears start to feel numb or turn very pale, come inside right away and tell an adult. These are signs of hypothermia and frostbite and you may need to see a doctor right away.

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