Watches vs. Warnings

May 21, 2020

Prepare with a Storm Plan

Before bad weather strikes, pr​eparation is key to staying safe and minimizing impact. Use these tips to be weather-ready in the event of a storm:

  • ​Check the forecast regularly to see if you’re at risk for severe weather. Listen to local news or National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio to stay informed about severe thunderstorm watches and warnings.
  • ​Sign up for weather notifications. Know how your community sends warning. Some communities have outdoor sirens, while others depend on media and smart phones to alert residents of severe storms.
  • ​Have a family emergency plan that includes a meeting place and related information. Pick a safe place in your home, such as a basement, storm cellar or interior room on the lowest floor with no windows. Get ideas for creating a solid plan​*.
  • ​Practice your plan by conducting a family thunderstorm drill, so everyone knows what to do if a damaging storm is approaching.
  • ​Keep trees and branches trimmed near your house. If you have time before severe weather hits, secure loose objects, close windows and doors and move any valuables inside or under a sturdy structure.

Understanding what weather alerts from the National Weather Service (NWS) mean is important for staying safe in the event of inclement weather – especially when spring showers and overcast skies this time of year have the potential to turn into severe storms.

Severe Thunderstorm Watch

A severe thunderstorm watch means be prepared. A watch issued by NWS indicates severe thunderstorms are possible in and near the watch area. The watch area is typically large, covering numerous counties or even states. Stay informed and be ready to act if a severe thunderstorm warning is issued.

Severe Thunderstorm Warning

A severe thunderstorm warning is a call to take action because severe weather has been officially sighted or indicated by radar. Warnings indicate imminent danger to life and property. Take shelter in a substantial building. Get out of mobile homes that can blow over in high winds. Warnings typically encompass a much smaller area than a watch – around the size of a city or small county – that may be impacted by hard rain, large hail or damaging wind.


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