(WTAJ) — When winter storms threaten the area, it’s important to understand the differences between an advisory, a watch, and a warning.  

When a snowy system looks to impact the region but is further out, a Winter Storm Watch will be issued.  Think of it as a caution. They are usually issued one to two days in advance, so you have a chance to prepare.  

By the time the system moves in, it’ll be upgraded to either a winter storm advisory or a winter Storm Warning.  

With smaller snow systems, a winter weather advisory will be issued. This means we will see at least 3 inches of snow in a 12-hour period or a trace of ice.  

When a stronger storm is set to impact the region, a winter storm warning will be issued.  Warnings are issued if at least 6 inches of snow is expected in a 12-hour period or at least 8 inches of snow in a 24-hour period. 

Ice storms are also common in Central Pa. and come with their own variables to indicate whether a warning will be issued.

A warning will happen at least 24 hours in advance of when freezing rain is expected to accumulate to a 1/4 inch of ice in most of our area, except for Elk and Cameron counties where it’s a half inch.
If less than a 1/4 inch of ice is expected, only a winter weather advisory will be issued.  

A snow squall warning is also an important one to understand. 

These will come right to your cell phone when conditions are expected to change very quickly.
Snow squalls are a sudden burst of snow that creates whiteout conditions and sometimes cause a flash freeze, that lead to pileups on the interstate.  

The warning will be sent about 15 minutes prior to the event to alert you to get off at the nearest exit and wait for it to pass.  There is no safe place on a highway during a snow squall event.