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Tornado Warning vs. Tornado Watch: Knowing The Difference May Save Your Life

By    |   Thursday, 14 Jul 2016 03:18 PM

When tornado season starts, it’s important to understand the difference between a tornado watch and a tornado warning.

Historically, tornadoes have struck every state in the U.S. and every continent, except Antarctica, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The U.S. experiences the most tornadoes each year — an average of 1,200.

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According to the NOAA’s National Severe Storms Laboratory, “Tornadoes are the most violent of all atmospheric storms.” Though there is a season for tornadoes in the Northern and Southern Plains, upper Midwest, and the Gulf Coast, tornadoes can occur anytime and anywhere throughout the year.

Tornadoes, which can reach wind speeds higher than 300 mph, are measured on the Fujita scale and given a category number based on wind speed and subsequent damage: Category EF1-Category EF5. An EF5 is the most severe and causes the most damage.

When atmospheric conditions are right, weather services may issue a tornado warning or tornado watch. But what is the difference?

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Tornado Warning


According to the National Weather Service, a tornado warning indicates that a tornado has, in fact, been spotted on the ground or via radar. Immediate action is required to ensure safety and prevent death. The National Weather Service says, “There is imminent danger to life and property.” Shelter must be sought. A tornado warning can span one county or several counties at one time.

Tornado Watch


A tornado watch, says the National Weather Service, indicates the weather is favorable for the development of a tornado. People are advised to prepare to take shelter if a watch is upgraded to a warning. This is the perfect time to check emergency supplies and review emergency shelter plans.

The NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center issues tornado watches in counties where tornado weather may be developing. A tornado watch can occur in several states at one time.

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When tornado season starts, it's important to understand the difference between a tornado watch and a tornado warning.
tornado warning, tornado watch, difference
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2016-18-14
Thursday, 14 Jul 2016 03:18 PM
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