Severe Weather Preparedness: Watch vs. warning. Here's the difference.

Posted at 6:00 AM, Mar 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-17 20:50:02-04

As we move into our traditional severe weather season, it's time to brush up on some terms so you know when to take action.

First on the list, severe weather OUTLOOKS. Maps like this one are usually issued by the Storm Prediction Center several days in advance of a weather event.


The scale ranges from Marginal to High risk with storm intensity and coverage increasing with each category.


Another term you often hear in the spring and summer is a WATCH. A WATCH means conditions are favorable for severe weather, usually within the next couple of hours. A WATCH covers a large area at a time, while a WARNING covers a much smaller area - usually parts of counties for less than an hour. When a warning is issued, it's time to take action.


A severe thunderstorm warning is issued when winds reach 58 mph or greater or the storm is producing hail of 1" or larger. A tornado warning is issued when either a tornado is spotted or the wind signature on radar indicates a possible tornado.


Knowing the difference between an outlook, watch and warning will help you better prepare for when severe weather threatens.

Getting severe weather alerts for your area - right when they are issued - is easy and it's free. Just click here to download the Storm Shield app for your mobile device.