Severe Weather Safety 101

The United States has some of the most volatile weather in the world–the “Super Bowl” of weather as our founder Paul Douglas says. From hurricanes to tornadoes, the United States gets it all and that leaves many of us vulnerable. Severe weather can happen quickly and your best line of defense is to stay informed.

Thankfully, as the science of meteorology continues to evolve and improve, forecasters are able to predict severe weather. Official forecasts are generated by NOAA National Weather Service. The Storm Prediction Center or SPC in Norman, Oklahoma, specifically, is in charge of forecasting severe threats across the United States. Their vision? To be “the trusted source for the prediction of tornadoes and other high-impact hazardous weather.” It is important for you to find your best way to get the latest severe information and to know some basic terminology. The truth is, knowing about severe weather safety can save your life… or someone else’s!

Watch vs. Warning

Knowing the difference between these two words can save your life. In a nutshell, a watch means “be prepared” and a warning means “take action.” Watches typically includes numerous counties and sometimes multiple states whereas a warning is typically a much smaller area (the size of a city or small county). Warnings are depicted as polygons.

NWS severe warnings

What do I do when a watch is issued? Severe Thunderstorm and Tornado Watches are issued when conditions are favorable for dangerous weather. If your area is under a watch, you will need to be alert for changing weather. Review and discuss your emergency plans, check supplies and your safe room. Be prepared to act quickly if a warning is issued.

What do I do when a warning is issued? Severe Thunderstorm and Tornado Warnings are issued when the condition is occurring and there is imminent danger to life and property. This is when you need to take action by going indoors and moving into an interior room or safe room.

severe weather safety nws watch vs warning graphic

If that’s still confusing, this photo might make for a very clear distinction between a warning and watch courtesy of meteorologist Brad Panovich:

severe weather safety cupcake watch vs warning

Severe Weather Outlooks

NOAA’s SPC continuously monitors the risk of severe weather. If you want to know more about your risk of severe weather before a watch is even issued, you can always check the SPC website for their daily Severe Weather Outlook (also known as “Convective Outlooks”). This map highlights where severe weather will be possible for the day along with forecasts for the next few days. You will often see these maps on your local television weather report as broadcast meteorologists often relay the SPC’s information to their viewers.

SPC severe weather outlook

The following chart explains the difference between the categories.

SPC severe outlook categories

How to Stay Informed

There are many ways to get the latest weather information. DO NOT solely rely on sirens as they were not designed to be heard from inside buildings. Television and radio broadcasters oftentimes share severe weather information, but it’s best to find a way to get the warnings to come to you. With today’s technology, it’s easier than ever before. By far, the most powerful, day-to-day device to have on hand is a mobile device. Weather apps such as Aeris Pulse Weather and NOAA Weather Radio push alerts to your device if you’re under a warning. Additionally, during an emergency, officials will push out alerts to your mobile device. These alerts are Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) and don’t cost a dime. You will receive WEAs if your device is capable (contact your service provider for more info). However, WEAs don’t cover all severe weather threats. 

nws mobile weather alerts

Another great tool to have is a NOAA Weather Radio, which is particularly useful when you’re out of your mobile service area. This simple radio can be found online and in stores such as supermarkets. This is a must for outdoor enthusiasts.

Finally, you can also find watch and warning information on the internet. You can go to the National Weather Service home page. I also encourage you to search for your local NWS and local TV meteorologist’s social media pages. A great deal of watch and warning information is distributed via Facebook and Twitter, just make sure you’re following reputable sources.

Helpful links:

Now that you know a little more about severe weather safety, be sure to share this information with your loved ones. Stay weather aware!

Who is Praedictix? It is severe weather awareness week here at Praedictix but we do so much more. We are a weather company that focuses on delivering credible weather forecasts to our clients. We have three main offerings: media, weather graphics, and weather consulting.

Media: With two HD studios, we’re able to create professional weather forecast videos for use in television, social media, apps, and websites. Our forecasts are tailored to our clients’ brand. Our content ranges from national to hyperlocal forecasts and air all over the country.
Weather Graphics: We have access to a robust weather dataset which allows us to create high customizable, HD weather maps and graphics for use in television, digital signage, social media, and websites. Our white-label graphics allow our clients to push their own brands and sponsors.
Consulting: We lend our weather expertise to our clients to help with risk mitigation and business optimization by way of conference calls, emails, and briefings. We also have a forensic meteorology team that specializes in forensic weather analysis and expert testimony.

Click right HERE to learn more about us or contact us for your weather needs.

Meteorologist Susie Martin

Susie Martin
Praedictix Meteorologist