WeatherSevere Weather


Storm outlooks, watches and warnings: What you need to know

Posted at 5:30 AM, Mar 20, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-20 18:53:57-04

Before and during a severe weather event, there are many ways we try to break down the seriousness of each storm system. We get it that can be a lot of information to take in. That's why we want to give you this guide to help better understand what the various threat levels mean.

You’re likely used to seeing us show you maps like the one below highlighting the levels of our severe weather threat. These are called convective outlooks and are often issued by the Storm Prediction Center one to three days ahead of a severe weather event. When you see these maps on RTV6, it’s a good time to review your safety plan with your family.

There are five outlook categories ranging from Marginal to High Risk. High Risk means widespread and destructive storms are likely. The good news is these are rare for us. Some years we even make it through without reaching that high of a category.

The majority of our risks fall under Marginal or Slight Risk. A Marginal Risk means our threat of severe weather is isolated and is expected to be limited in duration and coverage. A Slight Risk means more of the area can expect to experience short-lived, intense storms.

Working our way up the list, it's not uncommon for us to have several Enhanced Risk days in a season. This is a rather new category, which means numerous severe storms could produce significant damage. A Moderate Risk means a fairly widespread outbreak of severe storms is expected.

The next level of alerting you to severe weather comes in the form of severe thunderstorm or tornado watches and warnings.

Watches are usually issued an hour or so ahead of storms moving into Central Indiana. When it comes to a tornado watch, this means conditions are favorable for tornadoes. This is the time to make sure you share the message with friends and family to be on alert for quickly changing weather conditions.

A tornado warning means a tornado has either been spotted or is indicated by radar. That means it’s time to take action — heading for the lowest, interior room of a sturdy building.

You can get watches and warnings sent right to your phone through the FREE Storm Shield app – no matter where you are or what time of day it is.