February 10, 2010 - What Makes A Blizzard?

By: Mallory Brooke
By: Mallory Brooke

Blizzard warnings have been posted for the Northern Shenandoah Valley and the Highlands - but what exactly makes a blizzard...a blizzard?

We have blizzard warnings Wednesday for 6"- 12" of snow, but only winter storm warnings over the weekend when over 30" of snow fell in parts of the Valley. What gives?

"Blizzard" is the name given to many big snow storms, but it actually has nothing to do with the amount of snow that's falling. Sometimes, snow doesn't even have to be falling.

The official definition of a blizzard from the American Meteorological Society is "A severe weather condition characterized by high winds and reduced visibilities due to falling or blowing snow." The National Weather Service uses these conditions to specify a blizzard:

      *Sustained winds of 35mph or more; or frequent gusts of 35mph or more.

      *Considerable falling or blowing snow which reduces visibility to .25 miles or less.

      BOTH of these conditions must be met for three consecutive hours or more to be classified as blizzard conditions.

Because wind wasn't a huge issue with the weekend storm, blizzard warnings were not issued for the Valley. However, this time around, winds remained high enough for blizzard warnings to be issued for the Valley and higher elevations.

Looks like we have a break from the active weather for a few days - enjoy it!


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