Blizzard vs Winter Storm: What’s the Difference

Storms are one of the most common reasons that the electricity gets knocked out in the winter. Frigid temperatures paired with ice and snow can be disastrous for power lines and transformers. They can also wreak havoc on your home.

No storm in the forecast is good, but it’s important to know the difference between types of winter storms so that you can properly prepare. In this post, we’re taking a closer look at winter storms and how they compare to blizzards.

Types of Winter Storms

It turns out winter storm is a blanket term for several types of storms that occur in the winter. There are four types of winter storms:


Anytime rain turns into snow it’s considered a snowstorm. Snow forms when the air between the clouds and ground is 32°F or less. There are three types of snowstorms based on the amount of snowfall:

  • Snow Flurries – This is a light snowstorm with very little snow accumulation on the ground, if any.
  • Snow Showers – Storms that produce enough snow to accumulate on the ground are known as snow showers.
  • Snow Squalls – When gusts of wind are accompanied by significant snow accumulation it’s considered a snow squall. 

Ice Storm

When a storm involves ice formation it might be considered an ice storm. To be a full-fledged ice storm there must be ice accumulation on everything outside and it has to be at least a quarter of an inch thick. Be extremely careful during an ice storm. In these conditions, power lines can break free due to the weight of the ice. 

Lake Effect Storms

If you live near the Great Lakes you may have experienced a lake effect storm. This is when winds from the north blow moisture from the lakes up into the air causing heavy snow to fall in the southern and eastern regions around the lakes. 


A blizzard is a type of winter storm that tends to be more severe. In the next section, we’ll go into more detail about what makes a blizzard different than other types of winter storms.

What Turns a Winter Storm Into a Blizzard

Blizzards are the most severe type of winter storm. They are so serious the National Weather Service has a special set of winter storm warnings for blizzards. 

While other winter storms are identified by the amount of ice and snowfall they produce, blizzards are determined by how strong the winds are during the storm. A blizzard will have sustained winds of 35 miles per hour or more. 

A blizzard will also involve heavy snowfall and what’s known as blowing snow. Blowing snow is snow that is either falling or is loose on the ground and is being kicked up by the wind. As the snow drifts through the air it decreases visibility. During a blizzard, visibility is reduced to just a quarter mile or less. 

The hard-blowing wind and decreased visibility are what make blizzards so dangerous. These dangerous conditions last 3+ hours and leave massive amounts of snow on the ground.

Essential Steps for Winter Storm Preparation

Getting through a winter storm is all about preparation. The more prepared you are the less likely it is that your home will be damaged. Here are five things every homeowner should do to prepare for the winter storm season.

Know the NOAA Warning System

Familiarize yourself with the NOAA winter weather warning system so you know what different issuances mean. There are:

  • Winter Storm Watches
  • Blizzard Watches
  • Winter Weather Advisory
  • Freezing Rain Advisory
  • Winter Storm Warning
  • Ice Storm Warning
  • Blizzard Warning

Outfit Your Car and Home With Emergency Supplies

FEMA and other disaster relief agencies recommend always having a first aid kit at home and in your car. You’ll also need to keep an ice scraper, hand broom, small bag of sand, road flares, and traction mats, or tire chains in your vehicle. 

Winterize Your Home 

Winterizing your home will help mitigate the freezing temperatures outside, reduce the risk of burst pipes and decrease the likelihood of a tree branch falling on your roof. 

Winterize Your Vehicle

Your vehicle is vital during a winter storm because you may need to evacuate. Vehicle weatherization ensures your car can safely make it down the road when the temperature drops below freezing. 

Have the HVAC System Serviced

When winter storms are a real threat the last thing you want is to have the heat go out in your home. HVAC servicing from a professional assured that everything is in good working condition before a storm hits.

At Provider Power we’re here for you during the winter storm season with energy plans that are reliable. Find out if Provider Power energy plans are available in your area! 

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