The Difference Between a Storm Watch and Storm Warning

Storm Watch and Storm Warning

The terms “storm watch” and “storm warning” are used all year long and in a variety of conditions across the United States. Knowing the difference between a watch and a warning, as well as what to do when one is given, will help you and your family take the necessary steps and be safe.

National Weather Service alerts

The National Weather Service (NWS) monitors predictions and climatic data across the United States. The NWS will alert local meteorologists when it identifies a potentially dangerous weather trend. Because you may not always be near a radio or television, you may follow your local news stations on social media, download the NWS app, or sign up for SMS notifications from the NWS to keep current weather changes.

When you hear that a storm watch or storm warning has been issued, remember that the phrase conveys the storm’s immediacy as well as its strength.

What Is A Storm Watch?

A storm watch means that severe weather may occur within 24 hours. The National Weather Service issues these watches for areas where thunderstorms or tornadoes have been reported recently. These storms can cause damage from hail up to golf ball size, damaging winds, heavy rain, flash flooding, large hailstones, and even tornadoes. The NWS issued severe weather warnings if there’s an imminent threat of life-threatening situations such as strong wind gusts, dangerous lightning, torrential downpours, and/or tornado outbreaks.

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What does it mean to issue a Storm Warning?

A storm warning signifies that meteorologists have already seen severe weather. If you hear that a storm warning has been issued, it implies that potentially hazardous weather is approaching your area. Take proper action as promptly and safely as feasible, depending on the type of weather warning by the weather station.

Types of storm watches and warnings

Severe Thunderstorms

A thunderstorm watch, which can last for many hours, indicates that meteorological conditions are favorable for severe thunderstorms to form. A thunderstorm warning signifies that existing storm conditions may worsen, such as heavy rain and high gusts. It’s advisable to stay inside and away from windows, whether it’s a watch or a warning.


Tornadoes are more likely to occur in the months of April, May, and June. A tornado watch signifies that severe weather, such as huge hail or winds of more than 58 mph, has the potential to become a tornado. A tornado warning means that a powerful weather rotation is about to create a tornado or that a funnel cloud has already been sighted. In any case, you should take cover as soon as possible and keep an eye on local news updates.

SEE ALSO: Countries with most tornadoes

Flash Floods

Even if there is no standing water in your local region, a flash flood watch means you should be prepared for circumstances to change at any time. Flash flood watches can swiftly evolve into warnings, indicating that surrounding bodies of water are about to or have already been flooded. In any event, go to higher ground as soon as possible and keep out of the flood’s path – don’t try to drive across enormous pools of water, for example.

Tropical Storms

The National Weather Service (NWS) strives to issue tropical storm watches as soon as possible to enable adequate time for emergency preparations, including evacuation. However, if you hear a warning, a tropical storm is on its way in the next 36 hours, and you should seek shelter as soon as possible.


A watch implies a hurricane has the potential to hit your location, whether it’s a tropical storm that’s projected to build into a hurricane or one that’s already formed. Prepare for an emergency by gathering emergency supplies and being ready to respond promptly. Warnings are often provided up to three days ahead of time; if one is issued, follow local authorities’ instructions on whether to seek shelter or evacuate the area immediately.

Winter Storm

Typically, a winter storm watch is issued at least 24 hours ahead of the storm. It informs you that while severe weather is probable, the specific locations and timing may not be known at this time. Avoid traveling if a watch is upgraded to a snow storm warning, as visibility and road conditions may become hazardous.

People Also Ask

The next stage in the procedure is to issue a warning. When severe weather is occurring or is about to occur, warnings are issued.

A tornado watch, for example, indicates that a tornado is likely to form in the affected area. Still, a tornado warning indicates that a tornado is occurring or about to occur and that persons in the vicinity should seek shelter immediately.

If you live in an area with frequent reports of severe weather, it makes sense to keep track of any possible threats. You’ll find information about current watches and warnings, including their expiration times.

You should always listen to local radio stations and television news broadcasts for updates on potential hazards. Also, pay attention to NOAA alerts via phone calls, text messages, emails, social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, and other methods. For more tips on how to stay informed during extreme weather events, visit

In addition to listening to local officials, you should also monitor national weather forecasts and prepare yourself accordingly. Make sure you know where safe shelters are located nearby and what they offer. Keep food and medicine handy, so you’re able to care for yourself and others in need. Finally, make sure everyone knows how to contact family members outside of the immediate area.

For more information on preparing for emergencies, check out Ready.Gov.


It’s critical to be prepared for storm conditions ahead of time, regardless of the sort of watches or warnings that may be issued. Also, talk to your insurance agent about your plans, so you know what’s covered in the event of a storm.


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