(WKBN) – Several U.S. states are facing their first chance of snow showers of the season this week.

Before we know it, local National Weather Service offices will begin issuing Winter Weather Advisories, Winter Storm Watches and Winter Storm Warnings. What do these alerts mean, how are they different, and how should you prepare if one is issued?

When a Winter Weather Advisory is issued, wintry elements are expected across the area, but conditions aren’t expected to be hazardous enough to meet warning criteria. When an advisory is issued, you should be aware and prepared for travel difficulties. Winter Weather Advisories are usually issued within 36 hours of the winter weather event.  

When a Winter Storm Watch is issued, conditions are favorable for a significant winter storm event, whether it’s heavy snow, sleet or ice. Watches are usually issued within 36 hours of the winter weather event, to give you time to prepare.  

A Winter Storm Warning means that meteorologists are pretty confident there will be an impactful winter storm within the next 24 hours. The storm is likely to produce heavy snow, sleet or freezing rain, which will cause significant impacts and hazardous travel conditions.  

A winter weather alert is issued by your local National Weather Service office and is based on different criteria depending on location.

For example, in Cleveland, a Winter Storm Warning is issued when 6 inches or more of snow is expected in a 12-hour period. In Atlanta, the criteria are much lower. The National Weather Service there will issue a Winter Storm Warning if the region is expecting 2 inches of snow.

As of Sunday, the National Weather Service had several active alerts. A Freeze Watch was in place from Oklahoma and Kansas, east through Missouri, Arkansas, Illinois, Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania.

Parts of Colorado were under a Freeze Warning, as was southern Wisconsin. Northern Wisconsin was expecting more serious conditions, and some counties were under a Winter Storm Warning.

You can see all the alerts and warnings for your region on the National Weather Service’s website.