INDIANAPOLIS — Winter will begin with a major meteorological event in the state of Indiana.

With a Winter Storm Watch in effect from Thursday evening to Saturday morning, the National Weather Service (NWS) warns Indiana could experience heavy and blowing snow, wind chills as low as -28, and wind gusts as high as 55 mph.

NWS is already warning parts of northern Indiana to prepare for “possible blizzard conditions.”

But what is the difference between a blizzard and a heavy snow storm — and could all of Indiana get hit with the former?

Blizzard

According to the NWS, a blizzard is defined as “blowing and/or falling snow with winds of at least 35 mph, reducing visibilities to a quarter of a mile or less for at least three hours.”

During a blizzard, you should stay off the roads except for emergency situations. High winds combined with whiteout conditions make driving extremely dangerous.

People who live in rural areas should be prepared to remain at home for a few days, although this rule can apply to anyone living within the affected area. Snow drifts may get higher than 10 feet.

Winter storm

Winter storm is more of a broader term, but when it applies to a warning or watch, it can mean any of the following things:

  • getting at least 6 inches of snow or more in 12 hours or at least 8 inches in 24 hours
  • 1/2 inch of sleet
  • 1/4 inch or more of freezing rain

Another important factor when planning for severe weather can be the difference between a warning and a watch.

A watch is issued two to three days before the weather event, and a warning is 24 to 48 hours and considered the more serious of the two.

You can think of it like this: “Watch out for the warning.”

Will we have a blizzard?

At this point, it’s too soon to tell if we will have a blizzard. Keep checking our FOX59/CBS4 Weather Team coverage for the latest. We also have helpful tips and potentially life-saving information in our Winter Storm category.