Monday, March 16, 2020

Severe Weather Preparedness Week: Tornado Warning vs Tornado Watch

Do you know the difference between a Tornado Warning and a Tornado Watch?  Many people do not.  It all comes down to “when to take action” and “when to prepare to take action”.  Here is an explanation of what each means and what you should do when one is issued.


A Tornado Warning is issued by your local National Weather Service office.  The warning is issued when either a tornado has been spotted or doppler radar indicates a tornado is imminent.  Most importantly, it is the time to TAKE ACTION.

Take shelter indoors immediately.  Go in to the location in your home, work, school, shopping mall or other building’s location designated as your tornado shelter.  Oftentimes it is a basement or an interior room (bathroom, closet, or hallway).  You want to stay away from windows and put as many walls between you and the outside as possible.  If you need help determining a good location, check out this page from FEMA.

Tornado Warnings are issued for individual storms, known as storm-based warnings or polygon warnings.  However, for most, the warning is displayed for counties.  Make sure you know which county you live, work, and frequent so when a warning is issued, you know if you are included in the warned area.


A Tornado Watch is issued by the Storm Prediction Center when conditions are favorable for the development of severe thunderstorms capable of producing tornadoes.  When a Tornado Watch is issued, it is often in effect for six hours.

There are times when conditions exist that could produce strong tornadoes.  In this event, the Storm Prediction Center can issue a Particularly Dangerous Situation (PDS) Tornado Watch.  These are issued a few times a year.

A Tornado Watch is your “heads up” alert.  Usually, there is not an immediate threat, however it is time to prepare in case a Tornado Warning is issued within the next couple of hours.

Right now is the time to come up with a plan of where to take shelter if a Tornado Warning is issued.  Once coming up with the plan make sure you go over it with your family.  Also take a few minutes to discuss where to go if at school, at work, at the mall, or at a park.  While you don't have to plan for every single location, get the idea of where it is safe to go so you can quickly figure it out wherever you area.

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