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Blizzard vs. Winter Storm: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Published on January 13, 2024
A blizzard is a severe snowstorm with high winds and low visibility, while a winter storm is a broad term for any storm occurring in winter with snow, sleet, ice, or freezing rain.

Key Differences

A blizzard is characterized by strong winds, heavy snowfall, and significantly reduced visibility. Winter storms, on the other hand, may include a variety of precipitation types such as snow, sleet, and freezing rain, but do not necessarily involve the high winds or severe visibility reduction typical of blizzards.
Blizzards are more intense, often leading to hazardous conditions with the potential for significant travel disruptions and power outages. Winter storms, while still potentially disruptive, usually have a less severe impact unless they bring heavy ice accumulations or prolonged periods of snowfall.
For a snowstorm to be classified as a blizzard, visibility must be reduced to less than a quarter mile due to snow and blowing snow. In contrast, winter storms can occur with varying levels of visibility and do not have a specific visibility criterion.
Blizzards require sustained or frequent gusts of wind at 35 mph or higher. Winter storms do not have a specific wind speed requirement and can occur with mild or moderate winds.
A blizzard typically lasts for a prolonged period, usually more than three hours, to meet the official criteria. Winter storms can vary in duration, from short-lived events to extended periods of inclement weather.

Comparison Chart

Wind Requirement

Requires sustained winds of 35 mph or higher
No specific wind speed requirement


Visibility less than a quarter mile
Visibility can vary, no specific requirement

Precipitation Type

Primarily heavy snow
Can include snow, sleet, ice, freezing rain


Typically lasts more than 3 hours
Duration varies

Common Impact

Severe travel disruptions, power outages
Varies from mild to severe disruptions

Blizzard and Winter Storm Definitions


An intense winter storm characterized by strong winds and heavy snow.
Schools were closed due to the approaching blizzard.

Winter Storm

A storm occurring in winter with various forms of precipitation.
The winter storm caused extensive power outages.


A weather condition with blowing snow and reduced visibility.
The blizzard caused a whiteout on the highways.

Winter Storm

A climatic occurrence in colder months with freezing conditions.
The winter storm resulted in several school closures.


A meteorological event with winds over 35 mph and significant snowfall.
The forecast predicts a blizzard for the weekend.

Winter Storm

A weather event in winter involving snow, ice, or sleet.
The winter storm brought the city to a standstill.


A fierce winter storm with sustained wind and snow.
They stocked up on supplies in preparation for the blizzard.

Winter Storm

A cold weather system bringing snow, sleet, or freezing rain.
The winter storm made the roads treacherous for drivers.


A severe snowstorm with high winds and low visibility.
The blizzard made driving conditions impossible.

Winter Storm

A seasonal meteorological event with snowfall or ice.
Travel advisories were issued due to the winter storm.


A violent snowstorm with winds blowing at a minimum speed of 35 miles (56 kilometers) per hour and visibility of less than one-quarter mile (400 meters) for three hours.


A very heavy snowstorm with high winds.


A torrent; a superabundance
A blizzard of phone calls.


A large snowstorm accompanied by strong winds and greatly reduced visibility caused by blowing snow.


(figuratively) A large amount of paperwork.


(figuratively) A large number of similar things.
A blizzard of political ads


To fall in windy conditions.


A gale of piercingly cold wind, usually accompanied with fine and blinding snow; a furious blast.


A storm with widespread snowfall accompanied by strong winds


A series of unexpected and unpleasant occurrences;
A rash of bank robberies
A blizzard of lawsuits


How long does a blizzard last?

A blizzard typically lasts more than three hours.

Can a winter storm become a blizzard?

Yes, if it meets the criteria of high winds and low visibility.

What is a blizzard?

A blizzard is a severe snowstorm with strong winds over 35 mph and reduced visibility below a quarter mile.

What defines a winter storm?

A winter storm is any storm in winter bringing snow, sleet, ice, or freezing rain.

Can blizzards occur without snowfall?

No, snowfall is a key component of blizzards.

What safety measures should be taken during a blizzard?

Stay indoors, keep warm, and avoid unnecessary travel.

Are blizzards more dangerous than winter storms?

Blizzards are generally more hazardous due to their intense nature.

What types of precipitation occur in winter storms?

Snow, sleet, ice, and freezing rain.

What causes a blizzard?

Blizzards are caused by strong low-pressure systems in cold conditions.

Can winter storms occur without snow?

Yes, they can involve ice or sleet instead of snow.

Do all winter storms bring cold temperatures?

Yes, they occur in cold weather conditions.

What is the difference in visibility between a blizzard and a winter storm?

Blizzards have visibility less than a quarter mile, while winter storms can vary.

How should one prepare for a blizzard?

Stock up on essentials and have a plan for power outages.

Can blizzards affect power supplies?

Yes, due to strong winds and heavy snow.

Are winter storms predictable?

Yes, with varying degrees of accuracy.

How do blizzards and winter storms impact daily life?

They can disrupt travel, close schools, and impact services.

How are blizzards forecasted?

Through meteorological models predicting wind speeds and snowfall.

Do winter storms always cause travel disruptions?

Often, but the severity varies based on the storm's intensity.

What is the typical duration of a winter storm?

It varies, from several hours to multiple days.

What are the main dangers of a winter storm?

Road accidents, hypothermia, and power outages.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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