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Winter Review/Preview
Safety Information

Winter Review, This Winter's Forecast, Winter Safety Tips, Warning/Advisory Thresholds.

Winter Review

Q: What has it been like in recent winters?
(Just in case you are new to the area).

A: During the late 1990's and early part of the new century, the seasonal snowfall for State College, PA (taken as a representative example) were at or much below the long-term seasonal averages. During the the winters of 2002-2003, and 2003-2004, however, the snowfall was far above normal. Those two seasons both resulted in almost twice the average snow for the winter.

The past winter was definately below normal for snowfall (about 50 percent), as we had a fairly snowy late November and December -- However, January, February and March were generally milder than normal, and below normal on snowfall.

State College, PA Co-Operative Observation Site Snowfall for winter seasons, past 20 years.

Maps of Recent Winter Season Snow Totals:

Seasonal Snowfall Map Image

Average Annual Snowfall for Pennsylvania
Average Annual Snowfall for Pennsylvania

This Winter's Preview

The NWS's Climate Predition Center (CPC) has begun to produce long-range outlooks for this winter season. Read the CPC Seasonal Outlook Discussion of the major factors playing into our weather forecast for this winter.

The CPC also issues forecasts based on the thinking in the above discussion. See the latest long-range outlooks on temperature and precipitation for the upcoming winter season (Dec06-Feb07).

Briefly summarizing what the CPC forecast is (as of late-November 2006) for the upcoming winter season in Pennsylvania:
There is an El Niño (see below), and that usually correlates to an above normal (warmer than normal) winter for most of the Northern Continental United States (Lower 48), including most of Pennsylvania. However, there is no equally strong signal for a drier or wetter than normal winter for PA.

Temperature Outlook
click to enlarge
Click to enlarge - Winter Temp Outlook
Precipitation Outlook
click to enlarge
Click to enlarge - Winter Pcpn Outlook

This forecast is based heavily on the relationships that occur in our climate during the long-term cycles of warming and cooling that the equatorial Pacific Ocean goes through - this is better known as ENSO, or the El Niño - Southern Oscillation. ENSO may be further spilt into two (or three) "episodes" : Warm (El Niño), Cool (La Niña), and Neutral episodes.

The correlations between El Niño (or La Niña) and the WINTER weather in the Continental United States may be seen at this CPC website.

Winter Weather Safety Rules

Around the Home

  • Keep ahead of advancing winter weather by listening to NOAA Weather Radio.
  • An ice storm will take down power lines knocking out electricity. Check battery powered equipment before the storm arrives.
  • Check your food and stock an extra supply. Include food that requires no cooking in case of power failure. If there are infants or people who need special medication at home, make sure you have a supply of the proper food and medicine. Make sure pets and animals have shelter and a water supply.
  • If appropriate, check your supply of heating fuel. Fuel carriers may not be able to reach you due to closed roads.
  • Be careful when using fireplace, stoves, or space heaters. Proper ventilation is essential to avoid a deadly build-up of carbon monoxide. Don't use charcoal inside as it gives off large amounts of carbon monoxide. Keep flammable material away from space heaters and do not overload electric circuits.
  • Dress for the conditions when outdoors. Wear several layers of light-weight, warn clothing: layers can be removed to prevent perspiring and subsequent chill. Outer garments should be tightly woven, waterproof and hooded. For the hands, mittens, snub at the wrists, offer better protection than fingered gloves.
  • Don't kill yourself shoveling snow. It is extremely hard work for anyone in less than prime physical condition. It can bring on a heart attack, a major cause of death during and after winter storms.

In Automobiles

  • Your automobile can be your best friend or worst enemy during winter storms. Get your car winterized before winter arrives. The following items should be checked; ignition system, cooling system, fuel system, battery, lights, tires, heater, brakes, wipers, defroster, oil, exhaust. Keep water out of your fuel tank by keeping it full.
  • If you travel often during winter, carry a winter storm kit in you car. It should include; flashlight, windshield scraper, paper towels, extra clothes, matches/candles, booster cables, compass, maps, sand, chains, blankets, high calorie non-perishable food.
  • Winter travel by car is serious business. If the storm exceeds or tests your driving ability, seek available shelter immediately.
  • Plan your travel. Try not to travel alone and drive in convoy when possible.
  • Drive carefully and defensively. If you do not have Anti-Lock Brakes: Pump your brakes when trying to stop on snow or ice covered roads. This will help to maintain steering capabilities.

Winter Safety for Schools

Children can be especially susceptible to the dangers associated with winter weather. Their youthful enthusiasm and inexperience often takes over when common sense should prevail.

School administrators and principals need to be sensitive to the dangers winter weather can pose to children and be prepared. Winter weather procedures and practices need to be established before the onset of winter cold. The following items should be considered when formulating a winter weather safety plan:

  • All schools should have ready access to current weather information. NOAA Weather Radio is the best source. Commercial media can also be monitored. Arrangements can also be made with local law enforcement agencies to have critical winter weather forecasts relayed to the school.
  • All schools need to have a functional plan in regard to closures due to snow, ice, or extreme cold.
  • During the winter months, guidelines need to be established regarding outside recess. Temperatures and wind chills need to be monitored and criteria set as to when outside recess will be allowed.
  • School bus drivers should receive extra training on driving during winter weather. Snow and ice can often accumulate quickly and unexpectedly on roads creating dangerous driving conditions.
  • With many households having two working parents today, it may be necessary for some children to be brought to school early. Schools should make provisions to allow children inside school buildings as early as possible during cold weather.

NWS Winter Weather Warning/Advisory Terms

Please see our Winter Weather Products Definitions Page for detailed information on the warnings and statements we issue during Severe Winter Weather.

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US Dept of Commerce
NOAA National Weather Service
Central Pennsylvania Weather Forecast Office
328 Innovation Blvd, Suite 330
State College, Pennsylvania 16803
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Page Last Modified: 27 November 2006 00:16:38 UTC
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