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Blizzards are powerful winter storms whose high winds and blowing snow cause many hazards. In this lesson, we discuss how and where blizzards form, along with important safety and storm preparation tips.

What Is a Blizzard?

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..Total whiteout conditions are expected across the entire area;’ said the meteorologist, as Joe and his mother were listening to the weather forecast. ‘What does she mean, Mom?’ asked Joe. ‘That means that we need to get ready,’ said Mom, ‘because a blizzard is coming!’Blizzards are dangerous winter storms with heavy wind and blowing snow. They are more powerful and dangerous than regular snowstorms. In order to be called a blizzard, the storm must have lots of falling or blowing snow, winds 35 mph or higher, and visibility, or how far you can see clearly, of 1/4 mile or less.

These conditions must happen for three or more hours.Whiteout conditions occur when the powdery blowing snow makes it almost impossible to see. While many think that snow must be falling to have a blizzard, this is not true. Sometimes a ground blizzard can form when heavy winds pick up snow that has already fallen.

What Causes Blizzards?

Blizzards are caused by large low-pressure storm systems, clashing with high pressure. The result is very high winds. Moisture from oceans and lakes creates clouds, which grow bigger and higher when the warm air and cold air collide.

Combine that with below freezing temperatures and you have a blizzard!They can happen anywhere in the world that has a climate where snow can fall. In the United States, blizzards occur frequently in the Midwest and Great Plains areas, since there is lots of open land without trees and buildings to minimize the wind and snow.

Blizzard Hazards

Blizzards can be dangerous for many reasons. Walking and driving can be hazardous because of slippery roads, low visibility, and snowdrifts, which are large, high piles of windblown snow.

Additionally, wind, ice, and heavy snow, can also knock down power lines and cause power outages.The very cold temperatures that sometimes occur during blizzards can make water and fuel pipes freeze. The wind chill factor is how cold the air actually feels when you combine the low temperature with the wind.

Blizzards often have a high wind chill factor, which can lead to hypothermia and frostbite, dangerous medical conditions that occur when humans are exposed to very cold temperatures.

Preparing for a Blizzard

Joe and his parents began preparing as soon as they heard the blizzard warning. They went to the store to stock up on food, water, and batteries, since they knew that they could be without electricity, water, and heat.

Joe made a point to check all of the flashlights in the house to make sure that they were working, and his dad put batteries in their weather radio.His mother was in charge of other important tasks: getting out extra blankets and making sure there was wood for the fireplace. They made sure they had everything they needed so that they would not have to leave the house during the storm. Just in case, his parents made sure the car was filled with gas and had a supply of water, food, and blankets.Later that night, as the wind howled and Joe was drifting off to sleep, he heard his mother say the best words ever…’No school tomorrow!’

Lesson Summary

Blizzards are dangerous winter storms with heavy wind, blowing snow, and low visibility. They are caused by low-pressure weather systems colliding with high pressure, and can occur anyplace in the world where it usually snows. Some hazards include falling and blowing snow, heavy winds, and low windchills.

It is important to prepare for a blizzard and know the many important safety tips that can help you and your family prepare and stay safe.

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