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CLEVELAND (WJW)– When the winter weather comes knocking, the National Weather Service issues different alerts to let you know what to expect.

Winter weather advisories, watches and warnings tell you how much accumulation is anticipated and how confidence experts are in the forecast. They also mean different things in other parts of the country. After all, what may not seem like a lot of snow in Ohio could be devastating to areas in the southern U.S.

Here’s what the alerts mean in Northeast Ohio:

Winter weather advisory

  • Issued any time before the event, but usually not more than 36 hours in advance.
  • Snowfall of 4 inches to 6 inches, or ice accumulation of .5 inch in 12 hours.

Winter storm watch

  • Issued any time before the event, but usually not more than 36 hours in advance.
  • Confidence in the forecast is 50 percent.
  • Snowfall of 6 inches or more in 12 hours, 8 inches or more in 24, or ice accumulation of .25 or more.
  • If the precipitation is mainly freezing rain, the watch is upgraded to an ice storm warning.
  • If the precipitation is mainly lake effect snow, the watch is upgraded to a lake effect snow warning.

Winter storm warning

  • Issued any time before the event, but mostly issued within 24 hours.
  • Confidence in the forecast is 80 percent.
  • Snowfall of 6 inches or more in 12 hours, 8 inches or more in 24, or ice accumulation of .25 or more.