If you live in an area prone to tornadoes, you’ve likely heard the terms “tornado watch” and “tornado warning” before. While both are issued by the National Weather Service (NWS), they have different meanings and implications. Understanding the difference can help you better prepare for severe weather and stay safe.
What is a Tornado Watch?
A tornado watch is issued by the NWS when weather conditions are favorable for the development of tornadoes. This means that tornadoes are possible, but not guaranteed, in the watch area. A watch typically covers a large geographic area and lasts for several hours. During a watch, you should be alert for changing weather conditions and stay tuned to local news and weather updates.
It’s important to note that a tornado watch does not mean that a tornado has actually formed or is imminent. It simply means that the conditions are favorable for tornadoes to develop. However, it’s still important to take precautions and be prepared for severe weather.
What is a Tornado Warning?
A tornado warning, on the other hand, is issued when a tornado has been sighted or indicated on radar. This means that a tornado is imminent or already occurring in the warning area. Warnings are typically issued for smaller geographic areas and last for a shorter period of time than watches.
When a tornado warning is issued, it’s important to take immediate action to protect yourself and your family. Seek shelter in a safe location, such as a basement, storm cellar, or interior room on the lowest level of a sturdy building. If you’re outside or in a vehicle, seek shelter in a low-lying area, such as a ditch or culvert.
How to Stay Safe During Severe Weather
No matter whether a tornado watch or warning is in effect, it’s important to take steps to stay safe during severe weather. Here are some tips:
- Stay tuned to local news and weather updates
- Have a plan in place for where to go in the event of a tornado
- Keep emergency supplies on hand, such as a first aid kit, flashlight, and non-perishable food
- Take shelter in a safe location as soon as possible if a tornado warning is issued
- Avoid windows, and cover yourself with blankets or a mattress for protection
- Do not try to outrun a tornado in a vehicle. Instead, seek shelter in a low-lying area
While tornadoes can be unpredictable and dangerous, understanding the difference between a tornado watch and warning can help you stay prepared and safe. Remember to always take severe weather seriously and take immediate action if a warning is issued.
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