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Winter Weather Awareness Week: This winter weather event occurs most often

Posted at 3:45 PM, Nov 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-17 16:45:50-05

SOUTHEAST WISCONSIN — There are a range of different winter weather events southeast Wisconsin can experience over the course of the winter.

More often than not, we see a few inches of snow and the impacts are low to moderate. Other times, we see high impact events which can range from extreme cold outbreaks to blizzards to ice storms to winter storms. Let's look at how frequently these extreme events occur in our area.

We will look at nearly 30 years of data, accounting winters from 1982/1983 to 2020/2021. During this period, we can see how often certain events happened, giving us a frequency. For this article we will look specifically at the number of events for Milwaukee County. Specific numbers for every county across the state can be found by clicking here.

The most common winter weather event in southeast Wisconsin is a winter storm. Over the 28-year period (1982/1983 - 2020/2021) there have been 101 winter storm events in Milwaukee County. That breaks down to an average of 3.6 events per year. These winter storm events are high end, impactful weather events. The thresholds for winter storms are: six to eight inches of snow in 12 hours, eight inches of snow over 24 hours, two or more inches of sleet accumulation, or four plus inches of snow combined with freezing rain or sleet. A Winter Storm Warning would be issued by the local National Weather Service for these events.

Courtesy of the Milwaukee National Weather Service

The next most common winter weather events here are blizzards, but they happen infrequently. From 1982/1983 - 2020/2021, six blizzards occurred in Milwaukee County. That breaks down to an average of 0.2 per year, or around one blizzard every five years. A blizzard is defined by the NWS 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.

Ice storm events are even less common, with only three events happening over the 28-year period. That breaks down to an average of about one every 10 years.

Extreme cold events, where wind chill values drop to -35°F, are also uncommon. These have only happened three times in the 28-year period, breaking down to an average of about one every 10 years. If -35° wind chills are expected, a Wind Chill Warning is issued.

While some events are more common than others, it's important to be prepared for anything winter brings our way. Find other articles about Winter Weather Preparedness on the TMJ4 Weather Blog:

If you have a question about winter weather, or an idea for a blog, let us know at

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