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Tracking the difference between Watch & Warning

Published On: Mar 11 2013 12:38:55 PM CDT
Updated On: Mar 06 2013 01:22:24 PM CST

W A T C H   OR   W A R N I N G

A "watch" means severe weather is possible during the next few hours. A watch is issued when there is a better than average chance that bad weather may impact our area during a certain time frame. Watches are issued primarily for areas where significant severe weather is possible, or the severe weather threat is expected to persist. Many severe thunderstorms affect only a small area for a short period of time, making watches impractical.

A "warning" is issued when bad weather has begun. This can include spotting a tornado, severe hail, etc. A warning, therefore, is far more important than a watch, but this certainly does not mean that one should ignore a watch. Watches often turn into warnings!

"Flash Flood Watch" means that heavy rains could result in flash floods in a specified area. If this watch is issued, you should be prepared to move to safer , often higher, ground if you are in the affected area.

"A Flash Flood Warning" means that flash floods are imminent in the specified area and anyone within that area should move to safe ground immediately.

"Severe Thunderstorm Watches" are issued when thunderstorms with winds exceeding 57 miles per hour and/or hail with a diameter of ¾ inch or more is possible. This becomes a warning when such storms have been sighted or indicated by radar. Be prepared for strong winds, heavy rain and hail. Also, it is not uncommon that tornadoes can form with severe thunderstorms.

"A Tornado Watch" alerts people that tornadoes could form in an area within a certain time. This becomes a warning when a tornado has been spotted visually or by radar. If this is issued, people should take shelter immediately.