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

Winter Weather Awareness Week: The Basics


October 30, 2006


The National Weather Service Offices that serve Northern New England have declared the week of October 30th through November 3rd Winter Weather Awareness Week.

For those of us who live in Northern New England, winter weather is a part of our lives from November through March. Despite this October's relatively warm weather, snow, sleet, freezing rain, cold temperatures, high winds.and cold wind chill temperatures will be common occurrences soon. While most of the time these weather elements are only a nuisance to our daily routines, they can produce hazardous or life-threatening situations for those who are not prepared or 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 Maine residents are all aware from January 1998, 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 and visit Watch, Warning and Advisory Criteria for Winter Storms to learn about specific warning criteria for Maine storms.

  • 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.
  • Watch

    Issued to alert the public that dangerous winter conditions are possible in the watched area within the next 12 to 36 hours. Products include: Winter Storm Watch, High Wind Watch and Coastal Flood Watch.
  • Warning

    Issued to alert the public that dangerous winter conditions are likely to occur within the next 12 to 24 hours or are occurring in the warned area. Products include Winter Storm Warning, Heavy Snow Warning, Ice Storm Warning, Blizzard Warning, High Wind Warning, Wind Chill Warning and Coastal Flood Warning.
  • Advisory

    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, Snow Advisory, Freezing Rain Advisory, Blowing Snow Advisory, Wind Advisory and Wind Chill Advisory.
These NWS warning messages can be found on MEMA's Winter Storms page, as well as our Maine Watches and Warnings page.

This information was prepared by the National Weather Service Forecast Offices in Gray and Caribou, Maine. For more information, please visit them at:



Last update: 07/20/10