What Is a Blizzard? - dummies

What Is a Blizzard?

By Andrew Hollandbeck

Some people think that a blizzard is all about how much snow falls. This isn’t true. Although blizzard conditions do involve the movement of a lot of snow, they’re more about wind and visibility than about snowfall.

According to the National Weather Service (NWS), blizzard conditions are reached when falling or blowing snow reduces visibility to a quarter of a mile, wind speeds exceed 35 miles per hour, and the conditions remain this way for more than three hours. If snow is light and powdery, high winds can blow the fallen snow and maintain blizzard conditions even after the snow has stopped falling.

With visibility so low, the obvious danger is to drivers, who can’t see very far ahead of them on roads. Blizzards also bring the danger of frostbite or hypothermia. A wind speed of 35 mph can make a temperature of 32 degrees F feel like –3 degrees F, and the faster the wind blows, the colder it feels.

Blizzards pose other dangers and hassles, too, such as freezing (and then bursting) water pipes, downed telephone poles, and power outages.