What is the difference between a Watch and a Warning?

Beyond The Forecast

April 13th-17th is Severe Weather Awareness Week across the state of Wisconsin. This is a perfect time as we approach severe weather season to review your severe weather plans in the event that strong thunderstorms or tornadoes impact Northeast Wisconsin.

Two of the most commonly used terms, but often confused by the public, is Watch and Warning. These two words are used for a wide variety of hazards from severe weather, flooding, winter weather, and even fire weather. What do these words mean and what should you do if your county is under a Watch or a Warning?

When it comes to severe weather we will hear about a Severe Thunderstorm Watch or Tornado Watch. These watches are often issued hours before an event happens. A Watch means that conditions are favorable for severe thunderstorms or tornadoes in or near the watch area. Watches often cover multiple counties and can even span multiple states depending on the conditions that day. If your county is under a Watch it is a good time to review your severe weather plans and know where to go in the event a severe thunderstorm or a tornado strikes your area.

Above is an example of the area a Severe Thunderstorm or Tornado Watch can cover. It typically includes multiple counties across and area and can be in effect for several hours.

When a Severe Thunderstorm or Tornado is detected by radar or confirmed by storm spotters a Warning will be issued. If your area is under a Warning that is a time to go inside and take shelter in a sturdy building and try to stay away from windows. A Warning usually only includes portions of a county and on average last for about an hour or less.

Above is an example of a Tornado Warning. Notice how only portions of a county are under a warning which is highlighted by the red polygon. Now is a good time to review the county you live in along with the names of surrounding counties so you are aware where storms are in relation to your location.

Storm Team 5 will pass along and Watches and Warnings that are issued inside our viewing area. You can also get weather information right on your phone by downloading the Storm Team 5 Weather App which can be found in the App Store and Google Play for free!

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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