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Watch vs Warning | Understanding severe weather alerts

Many may not know the difference between a severe weather watch or warning, and it could play a huge role when it comes your safety.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Spring and summer are the time of year when we take vacations, get outdoors more often, but it's also the time of year when we see more severe weather and tornadoes.

No matter what the weather event is, it often comes with a watch and a warning. That said, many people may not know the difference and it could play a huge role when it comes to you and your family's safety.

WHAS11 News is simplifying the difference. 

Here's a breakdown of what a watch and warning mean when it comes to severe weather, including tornadoes as defined by the National Weather Service.

Thunderstorm watch vs warning

A Severe Thunderstorm Watch is issued when severe thunderstorms are possible in and near the watch area. It does not mean that they will occur. It only means they are possible

A Severe Thunderstorm Warning is issued when severe thunderstorms are occurring or imminent in the warning area. 

Tornado watch vs warning

Tornado Watch: Be Prepared! Tornadoes are possible in and near the watch area. Review and discuss your emergency plans and check supplies and your safe room. Be ready to act quickly if a warning is issued or you suspect a tornado is approaching. Acting early helps to save lives! Watches are issued by the Storm Prediction Center for counties where tornadoes may occur. The watch area is typically large, covering numerous counties or even states.

Tornado Warning: Take Action! A tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. There is imminent danger to life and property. Move to an interior room on the lowest floor of a sturdy building. Avoid windows. If in a mobile home, a vehicle, or outdoors, move to the closest substantial shelter and protect yourself from flying debris. Warnings are issued by your local forecast office. Warnings typically encompass a much smaller area (around the size of a city or small county) that may be impacted by a tornado identified by a forecaster on radar or by a trained spotter/law enforcement who is watching the storm.

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Flash Flood watch vs warning

A Flash Flood Watch is issued when conditions are favorable for flash flooding. It does not mean that flash flooding will occur, but it is possible.

Flash Flood Warning: A Flash Flood Warning is issued when flash flooding is imminent or occurring.

Flood Watch: A Flood Watch is issued when conditions are favorable for flooding. It does not mean flooding will occur, but it is possible.

Flood Warning: A Flood Warning is issued when flooding is imminent or occurring.

High wind watch vs warning

High Wind Watch: A High Wind Watch is issued when the following conditions are possible:

  • Sustained winds of 40 mph or higher for one hour or more
  • Wind gusts of 58 mph or higher for any duration

High Wind Warning: A High Wind Warning is issued when the following conditions are expected:

  • Sustained winds of 40 mph or higher for one hour or more
  • Wind gusts of 58 mph or higher for any duration.

RELATED: Step-by-step | How to set up severe weather alerts on your iPhone or Android

SHARE YOUR PHOTOS AND VIDEOS

Only when it is safe to do so, please share your storm and damage pictures and videos by texting: 502-582-7290. Make sure to include your name and location in your text. You can also email to: web@whas11.com 

Credit: WHAS11 News

RELATED: Tornado Safety | Here's what you should do before, during and after a tornado to keep you and your family safe

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