Decode Weather Watches and Warnings: Brush Up on Weather Terminology
Between emergency sirens, the Emergency Alert System, Wireless Emergency Alerts, radio and TV, you’re not at a loss for resources to hear about bad conditions approaching. But, you may want to brush up on your weather terms to better understand what all those watches and warnings mean. The following info from the National Weather Service can help you better respond to severe weather when it’s headed your way.
- Severe Thunderstorm Watch: Severe thunderstorms are possible in the area. When a watch is issued, you should stay informed and ready to act, the American Red Cross says.
- Severe Thunderstorm Warning: Severe weather has been detected and reported, and there’s imminent danger. According to the Red Cross, this means that you should take shelter.
- Flood/Flash Flood Watch: Flooding is possible in your area. The weather service says that if a flood watch is issued, you should take steps to prepare.
- Flood/Flash Flood Warning: Flooding is already occurring (or will occur soon) in your area. Be ready to evacuate, says the Red Cross. If you’re not indoors, head for higher ground.
- Tornado Watch: Tornadoes are possible in the area. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says when a watch is issued, you should review your plan for what to do during a tornado and make sure your emergency supplies are stored in the area where you plan to take shelter. Be ready to act quickly.
- Tornado Warning: A tornado has been sighted or detected in your area and there’s imminent danger to life and property. Now is the time to move immediately to a basement, a storm cellar or an interior room without windows, Ready.gov says.
Tropical Storms and Hurricanes
- Tropical Storm Watch: A tropical storm watch indicates tropical storm conditions are possible in about 48 hours with winds between 39 to 73 mph. Prepare and gather your emergency supplies and monitor the local news for weather updates and any instructions from officials.
- Tropical Storm Warning: A tropical storm warning means tropical storm conditions are expected in 36 hours. Continue to listen to local weather and news updates, and be ready in case officials ask you to evacuate.
- Hurricane Watch: A hurricane watch states that hurricane conditions are possible in 48 hours with winds of 74 mph or higher. This watch is issued in advance of the anticipated onset of the hurricane, the National Hurricane Center says, so that you have enough time to prepare for the storm.
- Hurricane Warning: Hurricane conditions are expected in 36 hours. At this point, the National Hurricane Center says to complete your storm preparations and be ready to evacuate the area if directed by local officials.
- Winter Storm Watch: Winter storm conditions are possible within 36 to 48 hours. Review your winter storm plans and keep an eye on weather reports, the Red Cross says.
- Winter Storm Warning: Life-threatening, severe winter conditions have begun or will begin within 24 hours. Ready.gov suggests that you take measures to keep your family safe, including staying indoors, avoiding driving and wearing proper protective clothing if you do need to go outside.
It’s important to be prepared if severe weather is coming. By reviewing the watches and warnings above, you hopefully have more confidence on how best to respond when bad weather hits.
Originally published on April 29, 2014.