Ready or not, old man winter is just nine weeks away from his official arrival in the Ozarks.

Blowing snow, freezing rain, and slippery ice are just some of the winter woes Missouri and Arkansas deal with each season.

In fact, our winter storms are so complex, research shows the warning system the National Weather Service currently uses could be confusing.

After all, 127 different watches, warnings, and advisories are a lot! And to top it off, each have their own representative color… That’s 127 colors!

“Research is showing that there’s not one perfect way of doing it. We know that there were some words better than other words, we know that there are some colors that are better than other colors. So to boil it down, what the National Weather Service is doing this winter is reducing the number of products in hopes of conveying the message better”  says Steve Runnels, Warning Coordination Meteorologist, NWS Springfield.

With this simplification, we’ll see changes to each tier of the current system: Watches, Warnings, and Advisories.

Watches are issued 48 hours before the storm so you can be prepared…But do you get ready for a winter storm differently than a  blizzard?

To make things easier… Blizzard watches will now be consolidated under one Winter Storm Watch.

Warnings come when the storm is imminent, suggesting you take action to keep safe.

The Ozarks will continue to see Ice, Winter Storm, and Blizzard Warnings depending on the hazard. No big changes for us there.

And when it comes to the last tier…

“The real plus will be with the advisories. No longer will we have blowing snow advisories, or freezing rain advisories. These are all winter events, so we’re going to put everything under a Winter Weather Advisory and then convey what are the risks” says Steve Runnels, Warning Coordination Meteorologist, NWS Springfield.

One name…  One umbrella term… With details to describe the impacts of each hazard.

Simply put, now you’ll only see one all encompassing Winter Weather Advisory with a tag for specific hazards like low visibility from blowing snow or slippery roads from freezing rain.

Other new products you will see are probability forecasts, or the most and least likely scenarios for winter storms.

“How do we say maybe there’s going to be more snow than more rain in a given area? How do we say given one degree temperature difference you’re going to have sleet versus snow? That’s a challenge” says Steve Runnels, Warning Coordination Meteorologist, NWS Springfield.

Despite challenges faced in communication and multiple changes made to the system with this project, the National Weather Service says in the end there’s one goal: the protection of life and property.

These changes to the winter headlines just took effect this month. The National Weather Service is planning similar changes to our flood headlines for the spring.

For more information, check out:

By Elisa Raffa |