Watches vs. Warnings


Watches are issued when conditions are favorable for tornadoes, severe thunderstorms, or flash floods. If you are in an area that is under a watch alert, continue with normal activities but make plans to seek shelter if necessary.

When the National Weather Service issues a weather watch, local weather offices are staffed with extra personnel and state officials are notified. Information is passed to the county and local level. Counties and cities activate their spotter groups as the threat increases.TV and radio stations pass the word to the public.


Warnings are issued when severe weather has been reported or is imminent. Seek shelter immediately if you are in or near the path of the storm. Know the name of the county you live in and the cities around you; warnings are issued by county names, city names, and well-known landmarks.

Warnings are disseminated swiftly, using hotlines and other tools including TV, radio, and the internet. People may receive warnings via cell phones, pagers, and other methods. Storm spotters provide constant reports and officials carry out plans developed by emergency managers. Updates are issued frequently until the threat has ended.

Forecasting a Severe Weather Warning or Watch

The process of forecasting a warning begins days ahead of time, when the threat area is determined. Hazardous weather outlooks are issued early every morning and updated as conditions warrant.