Severe weather with high winds, heavy rains, and even tornadoes are not uncommon for this part of the country and anyone who lives here should have a safety plan in place in the event of severe or dangerous weather.

Four Types of Weather Watches & Warnings - Know the Difference

Typically, there are four types of severe weather that you may be alerted to by the National Weather Service but it can sometimes be confusing what the difference is between say a Tornado Watch or a Tornado Warning. Luckily, The Weather Channel has done an excellent job of explaining what sets them apart.

  • Severe thunderstorm watch: This means that the conditions are favorable to the development of severe thunderstorms in and around the watch area.
  • Severe thunderstorm warning: This alert is issued when a severe thunderstorm has been either radar indicated or observed by trained spotters, and is happening or predicted to happen in the warning area.
  • Tornado watch: An alert for a tornado watch means that conditions are favorable for both the development of severe thunderstorms and the possibility of tornadoes in and around the watch area.
  • Tornado warning: This alert means that trained spotters have sighted a tornado or that one has been indicated on radar, and is currently happening or expected to happen in the warning area. When receiving a tornado warning, individuals should assume danger is imminent, and seek cover immediately.
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Now that we know the difference between the various watches and warnings, what can we do to be better prepared?

Have a Plan in Place for Severe Weather and Tornado Warnings

The threat of severe weather is inescapable where we live so it's best to have a plan in place to keep you and your family safe when the inevitable happens. Here are some tips to help you plan according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

  • Have a battery-operated television, radio or mobile device so you can follow the latest emergency weather information being broadcast.
  • Don't forget the batteries for those items mentioned above.
  • Create a tornado emergency plan for you, your family, and your pets. This should include knowing where to safely take shelter,
  • Put together an emergency kit that includes water, non-perishable foods, and any medication you, your family, or your pets may need.
  • Create a list of important information like emergency names and contact information.
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Plan Where You Will Go If There is a Tornado Warning

Now that you know what you need to have on hand, where do you go if the weather gets bad? has some suggestions.

  • You should have a predetermined location for you and your family to meet if there is a weather emergency.
  • The safest place for you and your family during severe weather will always be a basement.
  • If you don't have a basement, other options include a nearby shelter, or the home of a friend or neighbor with a basement - assuming you can get there quickly.
  • An interior room with no windows on the lowest floor of  your home is also an option if you do not have a basement. Think a small bedroom or hall closet for this.
  • If none of these are options, a mattress pulled over a bathtub will offer some protection

Seek Shelter Immediately If a Tornado Warning is Issued

In the event of a tornado warning, you will need to take shelter immediately in your preplanned location. But what if you aren't at home? advises that you follow the recommendations.

  • At Your Workplace or School: Follow your tornado drill and proceed to your tornado shelter location quickly and calmly. Stay away from windows and do not go to large open rooms such as cafeterias, gymnasiums, or auditoriums.
  • Outside: Seek shelter inside a sturdy building immediately if a tornado is approaching. Sheds and storage facilities are not safe. Neither is a mobile home or tent.  If you have time, get to a safe building.
  • In a vehicle: Being in a vehicle during a tornado is not safe. The best course of action is to drive to the closest shelter. If you are unable to make it to a safe shelter, either get down in your car and cover your head, or abandon your car and seek shelter in a low lying area such as a ditch or ravine.

Ultimately, just stay safe. Tornados are incredibly dangerous and can change direction quickly, leaving large areas of destruction in their path.

KEEP READING: Get answers to 51 of the most frequently asked weather questions...


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