Welcome to Rochester, the city that enables you to have three seasons worth of clothing in one laundry bin on a regular basis. Rochester weather is unpredictable at best, and us residents – “temp residents” – need to be prepared for anything. Many Rochesterians love our winter weather. They take advantage of the skiing, snow-shoeing, skating, sledding, snowboarding and other winter sports widely available in our area. For others, Rochester winters provide only cold weather, snow and ice.

Regardless of how you feel about our weather, Rochester winters pose a serious health and safety threat to every citizen and can lead to severe illness, injury or even death if certain precautions are not taken.

The key to staying safe is to “know your snow.” Understand winter weather terminology and know how to keep yourself warm and dry despite the storms.

Winter Weather Advisories are issued for accumulations of snow, freezing rain and sleet, as well as extremely low temperatures and high winds. WWAs are designed to warn citizens of approaching weather that may pose a significant inconvenience, as well as to keep people safe. WWA “watches” are usually issued 12-48 hours before the beginning of the storm, while WWA “warnings” signify imminent or current storm conditions. The most common WWA in Rochester are for general winter storms, significant lake effect snow accumulation, extremely low temperatures, wind chills and freezing rain.

Rochester is well-known for its ice storms, which occur when rain falls onto a surface with a temperature that is below freezing. This causes the rain to freeze to the surface – trees, cars, roads, telephone poles and electric wires – forming a coating of ice. Due to the weight of the frozen rain, even small accumulations of ice can cause serious damage to trees and homes and present significant safety hazards.

As students, we tend to live in a weather bubble. We wake up, go outside and, oh wait, we find out what the weather is. Few students watch the Weather Channel or pay attention to WWA, and even less think about the role that weather could play in their daily life.

As students, it’s important to stay informed, and if we do hear of a Winter Weather Advisory, take proper precautions to keep ourselves safe.

At some point during your college experience in Rochester, you are bound to run into a winter storm or two. Follow the tips, keep alert for unusual or severe changes in weather and enjoy the splendor of a snowy winter in beautiful upstate New York. Have a safe winter.

Newman works in the Health Promotion Office of the University Health Service and can be reached at jnewman@campustimes.org.

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