Severe Weather Awareness Week: Tornado Warning vs Tornado Watch

Tornado north of Benkelman, NE. CREDIT: Matthew Bunkers

Do you know the difference between a Tornado Warning and a Tornado Watch?  Many people do not.

It all comes down to “when to take action” and “when to prepare to take action.” Here is an explanation of what each means and what you should do when one is issued.

SEE ALSO: Tornado Tips: Are you prepared?

A Tornado Warning is issued by your local National Weather Service office. The warning is issued either when a tornado has been spotted or when Doppler radar indicates a tornado is imminent. Most importantly, it is the time to TAKE ACTION.

Tornado Warning Severe Wx Awareness Week

Take shelter indoors immediately. Go to the location in your home, work, school, shopping mall or other building’s location designated as your tornado shelter. Oftentimes, it is a basement or an interior room (bathroom, closet or hallway).

You want to stay away from windows and put as many walls between you and the outside as possible. If you need help determining a good location, check out this page from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Tornado Warnings are issued for individual storms, known as storm-based warnings or polygon warnings. However, for most, the warning is displayed for counties. Make sure you know which county you live, work and frequent so when a warning is issued, you know if you are included in the warned area.


A Tornado Watch is issued by the Storm Prediction Center when conditions are favorable for the development of severe thunderstorms capable of producing tornadoes. When a tornado watch is issued, it is often in effect for six hours.

There are times when conditions exist that could produce strong tornadoes. In this event, the Storm Prediction Center can issue a Particularly Dangerous Situation (PDS) tornado watch. These are issued a few times a year.

Tornado Watch Severe Wx Awareness Week

A Tornado Watch is your “heads-up” alert. Usually, there is not an immediate threat, however, it is time to prepare in case a tornado warning is issued within the next couple of hours.

This is the time to plan where to take shelter if a Tornado Warning is issued.

Make sure to enable your way of receiving Tornado Warnings.

Also, it is the time to keep an eye on weather conditions and have a way to monitor weather conditions.

Categories: Channel 8 Eyewitness News Weather, News, Severe Weather