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Understanding the Difference Between Severe Weather Warnings and Watches

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With the severe weather season upon us, it is important to stay up to date with changing conditions. Part of that is understanding the difference between a warning and a watch. If you’re not sure what the difference is, I’m going to show you, so that you know exactly what to do when one of these watches or warnings are issued.

While the peak severe weather season is usually between March and October, severe weather can happen at any time. In order to help save lives, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) work together with the Storms Prediction Center (SPC) and National Weather Service (NWS) to issue these warnings and watches.

Watches are issued by NOAA’s SPC, while the warnings are issued by the local offices of the National Weather Service. In our area, that would be the NWS in San Angelo.

But, what exactly is the difference?

Severe Weather Watch

A watch means that conditions are favorable for a severe thunderstorm, tornado, or flash flood. That doesn’t mean that severe weather is imminent, it just basically means that it is possible, and that you should monitor the situation in case a warning is issued, and be ready to act.

The following video will explain further what a watch is.


Severe Weather Warning

A warning means that a dangerous storm is imminent and will threaten a particular area based on reports, radar and other information received by the NWS. If a warning is issued, you should act accordingly, depending on the type of warning. If it’s a tornado warning, that means trained storm spotters, along with radar imagery, has indicated a possible tornado, and you should take action immediately.


Weather Watches and Warnings Websites

Hopefully, this gives you a better idea of the difference between a watch and a warning, so that you can be better prepared the next time severe weather threatens the area.

Tornado Facts and Safety Tips

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