Winter snowstorms may contain any variety of precipitation, including sleet, freezing rain, and snow, sometimes all within a matter of a few hours. The threat involved primarily comes from an accumulation of snow, which can range in depth anywhere from a few inches to several feet. Blizzards, on the other hand, pose a whole different problem.
No snowstorm is good news for those who have to drive in it, or shovel themselves out once it is over. Certainly, a snowstorm poses many dangers, including traffic accidents, overexertion from outdoor activity, and even damage to homes and property. Snow, especially the heavy wet variety, can easily collapse roofs and damage trees. It is especially difficult to drive through, and difficult to remove from roadways.
However dangerous a snowstorm may be, there is always the possibility that traveling may still be possible. Assuming that the snow is not producing a white out effect, and that the roads are still able to be navigated, you may still be able to get around.
Blizzard conditions, however, are produced when snow, usually a lighter, fluffier variety, is picked up and blown by high winds. This not only produces the chance of nearly zero visibility, it causes drifts that may develop into masses of snow several feet deep. According to the National Weather Service, a winter storm is put into the blizzard category once the wind speed has reached thirty five mph, and visibility is less than a quarter of a mile. Of course the actual danger of the blizzard is the wind, which is caused by the lower pressure in the storm and the higher pressure to the west of the storm.
While a snowstorm may be an inconvenience, and can be dangerous, blizzards are much more severe. In a typical blizzard, driving, and even walking for a short distance may be impossible. Anyone who has ever experienced a blizzard is well aware of the fact that even traveling a few feet outside may be enough to cause disorientation. This, combined with the fact that the wind may very well be producing dangerously cold temperatures, is the major cause of deaths in these storms.
Wind damage to trees, structures, and utility lines, adds to the problem, and it isn’t uncommon for homes to be without power, sometimes for days or weeks. In the season of the year when warmth is essential, this poses another problem, the ability to keep warm.
It is always a good idea to prepare ahead for snowstorms or blizzards. Keeping the home well stocked with food, having an alternative heating source, and watching the weather forecast everyday is essential in the winter months.
“National Weather Service – NWS Flagstaff.” National Weather Service – Western Region Headquarters. Web. 30 Jan. 2011. http://www.wrh.noaa.gov/fgz/science/blizzard.php?wfo=fgz