As we head into Severe Weather Season across the region, it's time to remind ourselves of the terminology regarding severe weather. We start with the difference between a WATCH and a WARNING. When a Severe Weather Watch is issued, it means conditions are favorable for severe weather to develop. These "watches" can be tornado watches, severe t-storm watches or flood watches. Watches are often issued several hours before the heavy weather arrives. And watches are no guarantee of severe weather. They are more of a "heads up".
When a Severe Weather Warning is issued, well that's a different story. A WARNING means that severe weather is imminent or is already occurring in the warned area. The time to take shelter is now! Most warnings last for 30 to 45 minutes, but sometimes longer. A severe weather warning can include tornado warnings, severe t-storm warnings (indicating large hail and/or damaging straight-line winds) and flash flood warnings.
It is important to remember that a warning will not be issued for a thunderstorm due to intense lightning, or if the storm has very heavy rain. while these weather conditions are dangerous, they do not deem the issuance of a warning. Certain specific criteria must be met for a warning to be issued. These criteria have to do with hail size (at least 1" diameter) and wind speed (at least 58 mph), or if flash flooding is reported or expected due to intense rainfall rates. Just remember this simple rule: if you hear thunder, get inside and stay there until the storm passes.
Have a safe severe weather season.
-Kevin Coskren, ABC6 StormTracker WeatherTeam