Severe Weather: Watches and Warnings

Severe weather can happen anytime of the year, given the proper conditions.  This past weekend, for example, unstable air and wind shear combined to send tornadoes roaring through America’s heartland.

Any meteorological event that can cause property damage and loss of life is categorized as severe. It can come in a variety of forms, depending on location and season.  High winds, strong thunderstorms, tornadoes, wildfires, dust storms, hurricanes, floods, and blizzards are all examples of severe weather that occurs in the United States.

When any severe weather event is in the forecast, it is important to understand the difference between the various alerts issued by the National Weather Service.  They include advisories, watches, and warnings.  All should be taken seriously.

  • Advisory:  An “advisory” is issued when significant, but not severe, weather conditions are likely to occur. Residents should exercise caution.
  • Watch:  A “watch” is issued when dangerous weather conditions are possible over the next several hours.  They generally cover a large geographic area.  Residents should be prepared to take action.
  • Warning:  A “warning” is issued when dangerous weather is imminent or already occurring.  They cover a smaller, more specific geographic area.  Residents should take action immediately.