Tornado Watch vs Tornado Warning

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Tornadoes are extremely powerful storms that can wreak a whole lot of havoc and devastation in just a matter of seconds. They’re capable of tossing regular cars through the air like little matchbox cars and taking a single strand or straw of hay and transforming it into a blade sharper than the sharpest samurai sword.

The trail of destruction that they leave behind can leave countless homes and businesses utterly devastated in its aftermath. Let’s talk about a tornado watch vs a tornado warning. 

Tornado Watch vs Tornado Warning 

Twisters are responsible for taking the lives of an average of 60 Americans every single year. 2020 is proving to be quite a different story, and unfortunately not a good one. Even as early as April of this year tornadoes had already claimed the lives of 73 people in the United States, making it the deadliest tornado outbreak in nearly a decade. 

Even if you don’t live in a tornado hotspot, it’s important that you don’t take this information lightly. Tornadoes can pop up just about anywhere across the country.

You need to be prepared at all times and know when and where to seek shelter. If you’re not sure what the difference is between a tornado watch and a tornado warning please continue reading. Here’s everything that you need to know. 

Tornado Watch

Tornado Watch Vs. Tornado Warning

The skies in your neighborhood are growing darker and the clouds overhead are no longer resembling the white fluffy clouds that you drew in pretty pictures when you were a kid. You have a strange feeling about this storm so you go inside and turn on your local weather station. Sure enough, there’s a tornado watch that’s been issued for your county. Do you know what to do? 

What A Tornado Watch Means

Watches are issued by meteorologists when they’ve detected favorable conditions within a thunderstorm that are possible of producing tornadoes in the near foreseeable future. Tornado watches typically cover a much larger, broader area and give you one or two hours warning prior to the storm (but not always).

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When you see a watch issued for your county, it’s common for you to see several other surrounding counties and even other states that are under the same watch.      

Plan of Action

Even though a tornado watch is not as threatening as a warning, it should never be brushed off with little thought. No, a tornado may not have been spotted at this point, but that does not mean that one can’t pop up in your area over the next few minutes. Weather conditions can change dramatically with these types of storms.  

When a tornado watch has been issued, it’s imperative that you start planning and find an area where you can seek shelter if the outside conditions start to get worse. Go over any emergency plans with your family beforehand, and be sure that you have all your emergency supplies ready, just in case. Please stock up on Light Sources that are Solar.

Tornado Warning

A severe thunderstorm has blown into your area fairly quickly and rather unexpectedly. Flashes of lightning and ear-splitting thunder are coming ever closer. Out of nowhere, powerful gusts of hurricane speed winds begin to slap your face and toss you around, followed up with an ice-cold drenching rain. Small pellets of hail begin to clutter the ground at your feet.  

Then, just as suddenly as it all started, the sky drastically shifts to an alarming greenish hue. Every leaf on every tree that was swishing in the breeze just a moment ago; now frozen. The eerie silence and stillness is so chilling that it makes your skin crawl as your heart begins to pound its way outside your chest like a hammer.

Blaring off in the distance you can hear the storm sirens begin to sound and you know that it’s a warning that you need to take heed to. And quickly! Do you know what to do?       

What a Tornado Warning Means

You’ll find that tornado warnings cover a much smaller region than what a watch does. A warning will zero in on a more focal point in the area, such as a county or an individual city. Because of this, a warning may only give you just a few minutes to act, sometimes only seconds. 

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A tornado warning will be issued in the event that a tornado has been spotted, or local radar is showing that one is occurring or just about to develop. When a warning has been issued for your area, there’s an imminent threat where lives and property are at a far greater risk. It’s time for you to move and to stop watching the skies!   

Plan of Action

When a tornado warning lights up on your television screen for your county, now is the time to move your family to a designated shelter area. And I mean IMMEDIATELY. Try and find a place that is below ground, like a basement, and away from any windows. Find something that you and your family can hide within or underneath for extra protection.  

If you’re in a building that does not have a basement, get to the lowest floor and to the center of the building. You need to do your best to put as many walls between you and the outside world as you possibly can. Get down low and under the protection of a table or desk space and protect your head and neck by covering them with your hands and arms.  

Final Word

Even though science and technology are much more advanced than what it was just a few  decades ago, along with providing us with more warning ahead of time, tornadoes can still catch meteorologists off guard. 

Tornadoes can touch down even before you hear the sirens, so it’s important that you act ahead of time. When a warning has been issued, seek a basement for shelter. If you live in a mobile home it’s best that you get out of it as early as you can and find a safer place below ground.

If it’s already reached a point too late for that, climb into your bathtub and cover your head and neck with your hands and arms. Now, do you think there is a difference between a tornado watch vs. a tornado warning? May God bless this world, Linda

Copyright Images: Tornado on Road Deposit photos_41140785_s-2019, Tornado Funnel Deposit photos_200888382_s-2019

16 thoughts on “Tornado Watch vs Tornado Warning

  • August 24, 2020 at 5:41 am

    Tornado Watch is a day that ends in Y
    Tornado Warning is usually what happens after we are already in the hidey hole

    Now I’m going to make some of y’all mad with real talk:

    Real shoes (as in not open toed, heeled or flip flops), your medications, your weapon, your go bag and NOT WAITING to get off the X for some government official to tell you. Be grown and make your own decisions.

    Register your storm shelter because it is an area you DO want to be found. Yes you want .GOV officials to cut the debris off of it so you can get out.

    Going into a stocked area with some snack type foods, water, toiletries, alternate lighting, trash bags (to put whats left in), gloves (real gloves that protect you not cutsie junk or oversized striped cheapies you bought because you don’t like wearing them), a record of your belongings, tarps and coms.

    Be safe

    • August 24, 2020 at 8:09 am

      Hi Matt, oh my gosh, thanks for these AWESOME tips!! I did not know we could register a storm shelter, I don’t have them but I remember growing up in California seeing them. I hope people read your comment, you know I LOVE it! Linda

    • August 24, 2020 at 1:13 pm

      Matt, I’m with you on this. We didn’t have any warning the last tornado that came through here in East Texas. We did lose power, but that’s a regular occurrence in the rural area where we live. We were sitting on the front porch eating dinner. It was the weirdest ever. On the north side of our house, it went from west to East. On the south side East to west. We didn’t have any damage, praise God.

      • August 25, 2020 at 4:50 am

        It’s better to be lucky than good some days lol
        I’m living proof on multiple occasions

    • August 24, 2020 at 1:37 pm

      This is my Shelter inventory:

      Earplugs (because it’s noisy and the air horn you might use to be found is too)
      Heavy duty tote you can sit on
      2 good chairs
      8 AA
      4 AAA
      Radio (wind up and solar)
      2pr gloves
      Homemade candles ( homemade just because we did some as a group from animal fat)
      Hand sanitizer
      Chemlights (Gets dark in that hole)
      Air horn (in case the shelter is covered in debris)
      Extension cord (cause power doesn’t shut off immediately. Get the last charge in the phone)
      Extension cord splitter
      15gl water
      Towels (It wet and you sweat afterwards)
      Stocking cap (early spring it’s still cool and folks go into shock from mental or physical injuries)
      Fan (circulation of air till the power goes out)
      Small tote bag (to carry valuables afterwards)
      Rubber gloves
      Trash bags (to put recovered items in)
      Toilet (Cause mine is now gone but I gotta stay n work)
      1 roll TP
      3 MREs

      Just some ideas. Make it yours. The go bags compliment it. Y’all stay safe.

  • August 24, 2020 at 9:00 am

    Linda, Matt’s info is excellent. I was born and raised in SE Kansas in the heart of tornado alley, mostly BEFORE we had tornado warning sirens. We always had storm cellars or basement and twice those saved our lives when our homes were destroyed. Now there are businesses that can build tornado proof rooms above ground level but below ground is always best.

    Speaking of which, in the Northern Hemisphere tornadoes USUALLY track from SW to NE, so the SW corner of your basement is where you want to be (and where your pre-stocked storm shelter area should be).

    When we lived on the family farm our storm cellar was about 50′ from our house. It served as a root cellar so there was always plenty of food there but grandpa had some old 10-gallon milk cans that held blankets, extra clothing, boots, flashlights and matches. One can held water. They were Preppers before that was a thing and it kept us alive.

    • August 24, 2020 at 10:33 am

      HI Ray, yes, they were preppers before that was a word. So were you and me! I’m not sure when prepper became a word, you and I have been prepping long before that word was prevalent. Great story about the 10-gallon milk cans, I love it!! Linda

    • August 25, 2020 at 4:49 am

      Appreciate it.
      Yeah there was no term of “preppers” back then. It used to just be a way of life and good sense. Then it was termed “survivalist” later in the 90s deemed bad by .gov and actions of a few loosely associated with such activities.

  • August 24, 2020 at 9:25 am

    The Weather Service is talking about/redoing the weather warning notifications. Have seen on Facebook surveys to fill out. It looked confusing.
    I have a terrible problem with the words Watch and Warning. Both begin with the same letter and some how in my mind a warning is like (“if you out in the woods today…”) be careful and alert something might happen today and a watch is, it’s coming, keep your head swiveling looking for it as you head for shelter.

    I’d prefer a color system, red being take cover or get to shore or don’t leave the house and get the pets in NOW!
    Numbers aren’t good as a 1 or a 10 could be the safe or unsafe number in various systems.

    • August 24, 2020 at 10:37 am

      Hi Lee, I totally agree with you! I have only been through one tornado and I was 16 years old and very naive. I was babysitting my nieces and nephews and we quickly went down into the corner of the basement without a window. I wish there was an easier way for those who may be driving through town and not aware of tornadoes. Hopefully, they have their radios on! Stay safe, Linda

  • August 24, 2020 at 1:17 pm

    I love the color warning. Similar to traffic lights.
    Green = Everything OK
    Yellow = Be Cautious, Be Prepared.
    Red = Take Cover Now

  • August 24, 2020 at 4:23 pm

    Linda & Matt,
    Thank you Linda for posting this information, it is important for people to know if they are moving to an area that is prone to tornados – as many are moving to now. Matt, thank you for your insight for I am sure many will find it very helpful. I grew up in NW Ga where I still live and this area is also considered to be a Tornado Alley. Within the past 15 years alone we have had areas in our county absolutely devastated by tornados ranging from EF3 – EF5. So many people lost everything that they had, many didn’t even have homeowners insurance, which is definitely an essential prep that many either overlook or lets go of because of finances. Those who did not have homeowners insurance still to this day encourages others to not only get but to keep as well. And as for those who were renting – none of them had renters insurance. I update my homeowner’s insurance each and every year – I do this because 1) the value of your home changes as the market changes, so anytime do something as small or simple as paint it can change the value of your home. 2) Anytime I bring into my home new furniture, appliances, electronics, jewelry, anything of monetary value that would be appealing to thieves – needs to be documented and updated with your insurance company. I also tell all my family and friends to never go without homeowner’s/renters insurance as well as keep it updated. It is also important to point out that if anyone lives in a tornado-prone area, it would be a good idea to keep all essential documentation in a safety deposit box because God forbids your home gets destroyed by a tornado the last thing you want is for your filing cabinet/waterproof fireproof safe to end up 5 miles away for just anyone to pick up.

    • August 24, 2020 at 6:58 pm

      Hi Ravenna, thank you for your kind words. I really appreciate hearing stories from people who have lived through tornadoes or hurricanes. You remind us what we must do to stay ahead of the game like having insurance. Most of us may think everyone has homeowner’s insurance or that they update it yearly. I do but that’s because I sold real estate for years and I check values of homes all the time. But if money is tight and your home is paid off you may think let it go, but we must not. We need it like a safety net. It makes me sad that so many people did not have insurance and lost everything. WOW! How devastating!!! Great comment, thank you for sharing, Linda

    • August 25, 2020 at 4:46 am

      Appreciate it. I had mentioned before in another post on taking video of belongings and putting it on a “cloud” so the other cloud can’t blow it away.
      Folks renters insurance is not expensive here. Less than a going out meal a month for a couple. Hard copies of that in the shelter and snap a pic for the cloud.
      Also places like Walgreens will help you if you lose your prescriptions in a tornado. They’ve been real good in helping my people after a tornado.


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