How Watches and Warnings Are Issued, And What's the Difference
We can get a variety of weather alerts around here and it's the National Weather Service's job to issue them as soon as possible. They can issue anything from a watch to an advisory or a warning, while each of them are issued to keep us safe there is a difference between them.
We can get a variety of weather alerts around here and it's the National Weather Service's job to issue them as soon as possible.
"For severe thunderstorm warnings we go pretty quick," said Meteorologist Evan LaGuardia of the National Weather Service.
Most Severe Thunderstorm Warnings go for about twenty minutes or so and requires meteorologists to keep a close eye on the radar. Time is everything when you're looking for a place to seek shelter. However, a Winter Storm Watch for example is issued about 12 to 48 hours in advance.
"Most of the watches and warnings we do. Specifically the thunderstorm watches the SPC Storm Prediction Center in Oklahoma puts those out," said LaGuardia.
Thankfully we don't get too many Severe Thunderstorm Watches around here, but it has happened before. Our thunderstorms are usually pretty weak compared to places like Oklahoma or Texas. What we can get a lot of though are Flash Flood Warnings, and these need to be issued in a timely manner as well. A Flash Flood Watch might be issued in the morning with warnings popping up in the afternoon.
An easy way to explain the difference between a watch and a warning is with a watch you have all the different pieces to puzzle, but they're not put together. You just need to be weather aware for that day. With a warning all the pieces are put together and the puzzle is complete, so things are actually happening either by radar or out at the field.
A Fire Weather Watch gets upgraded to a Red Flag Warning when forecast confidence gets higher. This is happening. The wording inside the warning is important too. With our current Red Flag Warning, the wording is a little bit stronger. This is a particularly dangerous situation.
"We're just highlighting the fact that we're going to have extreme fire weather conditions. Very strong winds of 55 miles per hour as fast as you drive," said LaGuardia.
While Red Flag Warnings goes by climate zones, most watches and warnings goes by county. So it's important to know which one you live in. The weather can change pretty quickly around here.