What is the Difference between a Blizzard and a Snow Storm

Blizzards have many characteristics that separate them from snow storms. Most notably, blizzards have a wind of at least 35 mph or higher. They also have snow falling and or blowing reducing visibility to less than one quarter mile and lasting for at least three hours or more. Just because it’s snowing doesn’t constitute a blizzard.

Temperatures will frequently fall into the single digits during a blizzard. Wind will pick up snow that has already fallen and swirl it around as if it’s in a tornado. This makes driving conditions hazardous and visibility very limited. Extreme caution should be taken if driving in a blizzard.

If driving in a blizzard make sure the automobile is prepared properly. Ensure tires are properly inflated, fuel tank is full and carry a shovel, sand or cat litter, and warm blankets and some snacks in case of getting stranded. Flashlights and extra batteries are a great asset in all vehicles during winter season as well as a well stocked first aid kit. It’s also a good idea to have a cell phone handy in case help is needed.

Remember if stranded to stay inside of the vehicle unless there is imminent danger in so doing. It’s easy to get disoriented when leaving a vehicle in a blizzard. Leave a window cracked to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning and run the engine for about 5 to 10 minutes every hour or so to heat car and keep warm. Place a bright colored scarf, flag or shirt on the antenna of the car to help rescuers spot the car. Frostbite is a very dangerous situation. If frostbite has occurred immediate medical attention is needed.

Snow storms cause snow but the wind is not as high as in a blizzard. Snow storms carry their own danger though as roofs can collapse from the weight of the snow and heavy snows still cause dangerous driving conditions. Trees and power lines can also collapse from weight of snow and ice that may form. Be very cautions around any downed power lines or trees.

Blowing snow is a precursor to a blizzard. As long as the wind speed is under 35 mph this still falls under the category of snow storm but it could easily upgrade to a blizzard if the winds pick up.

Heavy snow storms can also cause avalanches in regions prone to such things. Be aware of surroundings at all times and if avalanches are a threat relocate to a safer area. Listen to a weather stations such as NOAA and be prepared if a snow storm or blizzard is expected in local areas. Stock up on supplies such as food, first aid, extra heat sources and batteries in case storms cause major outages and avoid travel whenever possible until the weather clears.