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The Sound of Science - 'Blizzards'

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Hollie: Well, it’s that time of year again, WNIJ listeners. The first snow of the year has fallen. Today, I’m joined by NIU STEAM Team member K.C. Sauer who directs our Become a Weather Scientist summer camp and after school programming. How are you doing today, K.C.? 

K.C.: I’m doing great Hollie! I’m excited to be joining the Sound of Science team. I want to mark this frosty occasion by answering a question I get asked all the time as a STEAM Educator. Students always what to know “What is a Blizzard?” 

H: Well that’s easy. Isn’t a blizzard just a big snow storm? 

K.C.: A lot people think so, but that’s actually a common misconception. Blizzards are a type of weather classification, that may or may not involve a snow storm. For the National Weather Service to classify a weather event as a blizzard, winds must be over 35 miles per hour and snow must be blowing around so intensely that a person can only see ¼ a mile or less ahead of them for at least 3 hours. 

H: How is that not just a big snow storm? 

K.C.: Well, some big snow storms don’t come with strong winds, making them just a snow shower. Some snow only falls for a short duration of time with little to no accumulation, making them snow flurries. Some blizzards don’t even occur when snow is falling, but rather when winds are so strong that they pick up snow that has already fallen off the ground and create low visibility conditions. These blizzards are called ground blizzards. 

H: There are so many different types of snow storms, it must be hard to keep them all straight. My emergency preparedness bag has water bottles, granola bars, and a blanket. Is there anything else I should add to my bag for the winter season? 

K.C.: While you shouldn’t go out during a blizzard, it’s always a good idea to pack extra blankets and a shovel when you travel in case you get stuck and need to dig yourself out of the snow. Remember to dress warm for the weather too including a hat, gloves, and snow boots. 

H: That sounds like a great idea. Drive safe and be prepared this winter season! This was The Sound of Science on WNIJ. 

K.C.: Where you learn something new every day.

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