Watches vs. Warnings

Posted in Weather - Miscellaneous at 8:00 am by Rebekah

What’s the difference between a watch and a warning?


  • conditions are favorable for the weather event in question (be prepared!)
  • typically covers a large geographic area
  • typically lasts for several hours (e.g., tornado watches may last 6 hours, but hurricane watches may last 36 hours)
  • issued by your local National Weather Service office, except for tornado and severe thunderstorms watches (issued by the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma) and hurricane watches (issued by the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida)


  • the weather event in question is already occurring or is likely to occur very soon (take protective measures now!)
  • covers a small geographic area (perhaps only a county or two)
  • lasts for a shorter period of time (e.g., tornado warnings may last 30 minutes…the exception is a hurricane warning, which means conditions are likely in 24 hours)
  • issued by your local National Weather Service office, except for hurricane warnings (issued by the National Hurricane Center)

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    January 19, 2011 at 4:32 pm

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  2. musings said,

    January 20, 2011 at 7:19 pm

    I appreciate this clarification since I do wonder whenever we get one of these warnings.