What do the various weather watches and warnings mean that are issued by the National Weather Service?
The National Weather Service (NWS) disseminates watches and warnings to help citizens, businesses, and visitors prepare for severe weather. The following are several weather statements released by the NWS:
  • Blizzard Warning - This means the NWS expects considerable snowfall with temperatures below freezing, and winds of at least 35 miles per hour. Expect potentially life threatening wind chill, deep drifts, and blinding snow.
  • Flash Flood or Flood Warning - This means flooding has been reported or is imminent. Take precautions now.
  • Flash flood or Flood Watch - This means flooding is possible in the designated area. If you live in this area, remain on alert and monitor the weather.
  • Freezing Rain / Drizzle - This means rain is likely to freeze as soon as it strikes the ground, putting a coating of ice or glaze on highways.
  • Thunderstorm Warning - This means severe thunderstorms are occurring. The dangers that can accompany a severe thunderstorm include: flash floods, lightning, straight-line winds and large hail.
  • Thunderstorm Watch - This means a storm of significant strength may develop producing large hail or damaging winds.
  • Tornado Warning - This means a tornado has been either visually sighted or spotted on weather radar. If a tornado warning is issued for your area, take shelter immediately.
  • Tornado Watch - This means that tornadoes are possible in the watch area. If you live in this area you should remain alert for approaching storms and monitor the weather situation.
  • Urban and Small Stream Advisory - This means flooding of small streams, streets, and low-lying areas such as railroad underpasses and urban storm drains, is occurring. In flood situations, know where high ground is, abandon stalled cars, never attempt to outrun a flood in your vehicle, and do not drive through flooded areas.
  • Winter Storm Warning- - This means severe winter conditions have begun or are about to begin in the warning area. A winter storm usually means snowfall of 6 inches or more in a 12 hour period, or 8 inches or more in a 24 hour period. Stay indoors!
  • Winter Storm Watch - This means severe winter conditions such as heavy snow or ice are possible within the next day or two in the watch area. Start to prepare now.
For questions, contact Emergency Management.

Show All Answers

1. What should I do after a natural disaster strikes?
2. What do the various weather watches and warnings mean that are issued by the National Weather Service?
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