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A Watch Or A Warning?

As we watch our daily local news and weather reports, we are often inundated with various terms that conspire to leave us at the very least confused, and at the worst, woefully misinformed about current conditions. Two of the most confusing are the terms “watch” and “warning”, often applied to severe weather, flooding, tornadoes, tropical storms, and the like.

The National Weather Service has incorporated the use of the terms “watch” and “warning” as a way to alert citizens to the threat of potentially hazardous weather conditions, and the level of that threat.  It is important to know the difference in the terms.

A watch basically means that conditions are ripe for dangerous weather to occur.  It means that residents of the area should keep a watch out for what the weather might do, and how it could potentially turn nasty.  For events that occur quickly, such as flash floods, tornadoes, or severe thunderstorms, watches mean that there is a very good likelihood that this sort of weather will occur, but it is not yet occurring. For events of longer duration, such as a tropical storm or a hurricane, a watch means that the storm is not an immediate threat, but could soon threaten the area. Basically, a watch means to remain alert and aware of any rapidly changing weather conditions and be prepared to react accordingly.

Watches are excellent times to prepare for a disaster by stocking up on the items you will need such as food, blankets, batteries, first aid supplies, etc. In the case of hurricanes or other major events, it means to prepare for evacuation.

A warning means that severe weather is actually threatening the area, that the storm or flood is already underway, and residents should take all proper precautions immediately. Hurricane warnings mean to evacuate to a safe shelter, and flood warnings mean move to higher ground. Winter storm warnings mean that it is no longer safe to venture outside.

These alerts are issued to local and national weather outlets such as TV stations, radio stations, and newspaper outlets.  Broadcasts are tailored to include reports for boating, farming, traveling, and outdoor recreational activities. Stations usually broadcast these warnings immediately, even if it means breaking into programming to do so. Residents are advised to keep a weather radio with them whenever there is likelihood for severe weather problems to crop up.

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