Tuesday, Dec. 11, has been declared Winter Weather Awareness Day in Texas.

The announcement was made by Jack Colley, chief of the Texas Division of Emergency Management, which will team up with the National Weather Service to highlight the hazards which accompany winter weather.

With the holiday travel season at hand, this is a good time to review winter weather impacts and safety tips, he and other officials noted in a recent press release.

Although the outlook suggests above normal temperatures and below normal precipitation for North Texas this winter, people are advised they should still prepare for occasional cold weather outbreaks. Some of these outbreaks could include winter precipitation in the form of freezing rain, sleet or snow.

Throughout the day today the TDEM and NWS will issue a series of public information statements via a variety of media. That information also is listed below:

Winter Weather Definitions

The National Weather Service uses the following terms when forecasting and describing winter weather conditions which affect North Texas.

Watch - an advance statement that severe winter weather conditions are possible within the next day or two.

Warning - an urgent statement that severe winter weather conditions have begun or will begin within about 12 hours.

Advisory - winter weather conditions are imminent or occurring. These conditions will cause significant inconvenience and may become life threatening if safety tips are not followed.

Freezing rain - drizzle rain or drizzle that falls as liquid and then freezes when it strikes the ground or other surface.

Heavy snow - a snowfall that accumulates to a depth of at least 4 inches in 12 hours or 6 inches in 24 hours.

Ice storm - an accumulation of 1/4 inch or more of freezing rain.

Sleet - pellets of ice composed of frozen or mostly frozen

Raindrops or snowflakes that have melted and refrozen.Frost - thin ice crystals which form on the ground or other surfaces.

High wind - sustained wind of 40 mph or greater or frequent gusts of 58 mph or greater.

Wind chill - a cooling effect caused when wind blows across exposed skin.

Winter weather patterns

Many large-scale weather elements contribute to the winter patterns seen over north Texas. Recent research has revealed that the El Nino and La Nina may play a significant role in the conditions residents experience.

El Nino and La Nina are fluctuations in the oceanic and atmospheric circulations lasting for several months. While their effects can be felt around the world, their most recognizable feature is a warming or cooling of the waters in the eastern and central tropical Pacific Ocean.

If these waters are warmer than normal, it is called an El Nino. If colder than normal waters are observed in this area, it is termed a La Nina.

El Nino and La Nina have their most visible effects on North Texas weather during the winter and early spring months. During an El Nino winter, North Texas typically experiences cool but not exceptionally cold temperatures. The area also tends to receive above normal precipitation.

La Nina winters are characterized by warmer than normal temperatures and below normal precipitation over North Texas. Winters with neutral conditions (neither an El Nino nor a La Nina) tend to be near normal on the average.

For the 2007-2008 winter season, forecasters are expecting a La Nina of moderate intensity. While the overall winter should have above average temperatures, North Texans should still expect a few winter weather events.

Precipitation is forecast to be below normal during the winter months.

However, North Texas’ winter months are historically some of the driest months of the year anyway.

Vehicle and home

preparation

With winter and the holiday travel season approaching, now is the time to prepare vehicles and homes for the cold weather.

Plan one’s travel and check the latest forecasts. Avoid winter storms whenever possible.

Check and winterize a vehicle before starting to travel.

Let someone know one’s timetable and the primary and alternate travel routes.

Keep the gas tank near full to prevent ice from forming in the fuel lines.

If encountering sleet or freezing rain, drive cautiously.

Even four-wheel drive vehicles will have difficulty on icy roads.

If planning to travel into an area that experiences significant winter storms, carry a winter storm survival kit including blankets, flashlight, high-calorie snack foods, sand, a tow rope, booster cables and a water container.

The primary concerns at home are the potential loss of power and telephone service. If winter weather conditions last for more than a

Day, then a shortage of supplies may also be a concern.

Make sure that water pipes near outside walls are well insulated. Repair any leaks that may expose pipes to cold air. Place insulating covers over exterior faucets.

Have a flashlight and extra batteries available. Use flashlights rather than candles if the electricity goes out.

Use a battery-powered NOAA weather radio and a portable radio to receive emergency information. With the holidays approaching, note that weather radios make excellent gifts.

If using a space heater, carefully read and follow the instructions on its proper setup and use. Keep the heater well clear of curtains, furniture and indoor holiday decorations.

If using a fireplace or wood stove, make sure to a good supply of firewood. Learn to use any emergency heating sources properly to prevent a fire.

Keep extra medicine, baby items and first aid supplies on hand.

Close off unneeded rooms and place towels or rags in cracks under the doors.

Check on friends or family members whose health or age may place them at greater risk from severe winter weather.

“As we conclude Winter Weather Awareness Day in Texas, we hope that this information will help you have a safe cold weather season,” a spokesman with the National Weather Service said. “If you would like more information about winter weather and the National Weather Service, visit our web page at www.weather.gov/fortworth.”