Friday’s topic for severe weather awareness week is watches vs. warnings. When it comes to severe weather it is very important to know the difference between a severe weather watch and a severe weather warning.

When conditions are favorable for severe weather, the Storm Prediction Center will issue a watch, either tornado or severe thunderstorm based on the conditions at play. It will be issued in collaboration with the local National Weather Service that is impacted by the watch.

A tornado or a severe thunderstorm warning is issued by the local National Weather Service office.

The appearance of watches and warnings on a map:

A severe thunderstorm or tornado watch will cover a large area and can even include multiple states. The duration of a watch can last around 6 hours.

When a severe thunderstorm or tornado warning is issued, they are much smaller and only cover a county or a few counties at one time. The duration of a warning can last from 15 minutes to at most an hour.

Severe Thunderstorm/Tornado Watch vs. Warning Terminology:

A Severe Thunderstorm Watch means that conditions are favorable for a severe thunderstorm that is capable of producing straight-line wind gusts of 58 mph or greater, quarter-size hail or larger, and/or a tornado.

A Severe Thunderstorm Warning means that a thunderstorm is capable of producing any of the conditions above at any moment or is producing any of them right now.

Tornado Watch means that conditions are favorable for the development of a tornado, but it does not mean that a tornado is on the ground.

Tornado Warning means that a tornado has been sighted or has been indicated on radar. Danger may be imminent.

  • Take action: seek shelter immediately.

Stick with the Arkansas Storm Team for details on the rest of this week’s topics for severe weather awareness week.

Follow the Arkansas Storm Team

Be alerted as soon as severe weather coverage begins by downloading the Arkansas Storm Team app from the App Store or on Google Play.