A tornado watch is an alert to be on watch for a tornado. A tornado warning is an alert that one has already been spotted. 

This article will cover the specifics of that and just about anything else you’d like to know.

Tornado warning for Tornado behind a barn with a red roof

What’s a tornado watch?

When the conditions are right for tornadoes, but none have been spotted, a tornado watch is issued by the National Weather Service (NWS)

This alert can be sent up to 8 hours before a tornado is expected and usually encompasses a larger area than a warning alert.

What’s a tornado warning?

Once a tornado has been spotted or detected on radar, the NWS immediately sends out a tornado warning alert. 

You should take cover right away if you receive a warning because there’s a good chance the tornado is very close to you. 

Understand tornado alerts

Knowing what to do and when to do it when a tornado alert pops up can be the difference between life and death.

Tornado warnings and tornado watches are very different and you need to know their differences so you can respond accordingly. 

Create a plan and go over it with your family to be prepared in case you ever get a tornado alert.

Tornado Safety

Get to the best shelter available if there’s ever a tornado around. These are the types of shelters ranked best to worst:

1. A reinforced storm shelter is a dream come true during a tornado.

2. A basement is your next best option.

3. The middle of somewhere inside, on the first floor, away from any windows.

4. If a vehicle is the only available shelter, drive to any other shelter you can make it to.

5. If there are no shelters you can safely drive to, find a lower area you can lie down in that will protect you from strong winds. (Ex. A shallow ditch or ravine)

6. If no sufficient lower areas are around, get as low as you can in your car cover yourself with whatever you can, and protect your head with your arms.

7. If you’re in the middle of nowhere with no shelter, vehicle, or lower areas, lie down face-first and cover your head with your arms.

Also, stay away from windows because they can easily shatter from the strong winds or the debris they carry.

What should you do when you see alert messages?

Act right away and don’t hesitate! If you receive an alert message this is your sign to get to safety immediately. This is why it’s so important to already have an effective plan in place.

Tornadoes can strike just about anywhere and cause a home to require very expensive repairs, like this home for example. Make sure to get get your family and pets to safety to ensure that 

Is a tornado warning or watch more dangerous?

The answer is a tornado warning. Tornado watches don’t necessarily mean there will be severe weather, they just mean it’s very likely. Tornado warnings, on the other hand, indicate there’s an active tornado very close to you. So if you receive a warning make sure to act fast and get to a safe location right away.

Additional resources:


https://www.weather.gov/safety/tornado-wwuse you

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