TULSA, Okla. — Now that severe weather season is here, it’s good to be reminded of the difference.
A Watch is the less urgent of the two - in short, it means to be prepared.
Some combination of instability (the ability of air pockets to rise), moisture (severe t-storms need substantial amounts of it to form, otherwise, you won’t get much rain, hail or a threat tornadoes), lift (which refers to a ripple in the atmosphere that triggers the air to rise), and wind shear (the difference in speed and direction of the wind from the ground up high into the air – this allows for spin or rotation in the air) is in place for a certain region if one is issued. A Severe T-Storm Watch means the hail and high winds are the primary threats that could form while a Tornado Watch means that, in addition to a potential hail and high wind threat, wind shear is strong enough for tornadoes to form from storms
A ‘Watch’ can, but not always, give you a couple of hours get ready for the impending weather.
A ‘Warning’ means it’s time to take action – severe weather and/or a tornado is imminent for your more specific location.
If a severe t-storm warning is issued, large hail and/or damaging winds are possible in your location momentarily. It’s time to move into a sturdy structure away from windows and wait it out.
If that tornado warning is issued, head to your safe spot – the lowest floor, most interior room in a sturdy structure. Even if a tornado has yet to officially form, we meteorologists believe it could materialize in minutes and waiting for your own confirmation of it could waste the needed seconds to be in a safe spot before it could strike. Stay there until you get the all clear from us.
Understanding the simple difference can give you peace of mind and allow you to stay safe when our spring storms return to the forecast.