Tornado watch, tornado warning: What’s the difference and what should you do?

Tornado watch, tornado warning: What’s the difference and what should you do?

Published May 28, 2022
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Tornado watch. Tornado warning.

What’s the difference between the two and what should you do if one is issued for your area?

Tornado watches and warning are issued by the National Weather Service. 

A tornado watch can be issued hours before a severe storm arrives and is intended to let residents know about the potential for a tornado in their area. Prepare yourself and your family. Stay informed and be vigilant.

When a tornado warning is issued, a tornado has been spotted and the threat is imminent. Immediate action is needed. While a tornado warning could be issued within minutes of the arrival of a tornado, there could be only seconds or no time to react. 

A tornado watch is issued when tornadoes are possible in and near the watch area.

Watches are issued by the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center for counties where tornadoes may occur.

The watch area is typically large, covering several counties or even several states.

“Typical watches cover about 25,000 square miles, or about half the size of Iowa,” according to the Storm Prediction Center.

Watches are revised as meteorologists monitor the approaching storm.

Here’s what you should do:

A tornado warning means either a tornado has been seen or one is indicated on weather radar and the area covered by the warning may be impacted. There is imminent danger, and immediate action needs to be taken.

Warnings are issued by the local National Weather Service office.