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Do you know the difference between a watch and a warning?

Posted June 20, 2019

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radio on a desk
The quickest way to learn about a weather watch or warning is with a NOAA All-Hazards Weather radio.

When severe weather is forecast, the National Weather Service may issue a severe thunderstorm watch or warning to alert residents of potential dangers. Fort Worth residents may also hear television or radio meteorologists mention a severe thunderstorm weather watch or a weather warning. But do you know the difference between a watch and a warning?

  • A severe thunderstorm watch is usually issued several hours before a storm is forecast to arrive in our area and can cover large land areas. The term means that elements to create a dangerous storm will be present and residents should be aware that there is the potential for severe weather.
  • A severe thunderstorm warning means that severe weather is occurring right now over a specific area. Residents should take shelter immediately in a sturdy structure, keep away from windows and seek additional information.
  • The same process is used with tornados, flash and river floods, extreme heat, red flag fire conditions, and winter weather.

The quickest way to learn about a weather watch or warning is to purchase a NOAA All-Hazards Weather radio. The weather radio receives transmission directly from the National Weather Service.

Another good way comes automatically through your cell phone. The wireless emergency alert feature will sound for dangerous weather, missing children and other critical situations. It’s important not to turn off the emergency app since it provides lifesaving alerts.

The outdoor warning sirens are designed to be heard by people who are outside. They are not designed to be heard inside buildings. The sirens will be activated for:

  • Tornado warnings issued by the National Weather Service.
  • A funnel or tornado reported by a trained observer.
  • Winds of 70 mph or higher.
  • Hail of 1.5 inch in diameter or larger.
  • A man-made disaster such as a chemical leak.
  • A state or federal disaster declared by the governor or president.
  • At the discretion of the Office of Emergency Management when large events are taking place.

The key is for residents is to have multiple ways to receive warning. Additional warning tools include:

  • Nixle emergency text alerts directly from the Office of Emergency Management and National Weather Service. Severe thunderstorm and tornado warnings are automatically sent out by the National Weather Service.
  • Download weather, warning or local media partner apps that also push warning notifications.
  • Follow the Office of Emergency Management on Twitter and Instagram.
  • If you have a functional need of are deaf, hard of hearing or blind, register for Accessible Hazard Alerts.

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