|What is the difference in a watch and a warning?
The Storm Prediction Center defines a "watch" like this:
A Severe Thunderstorm Watch outlines an area where an organized episode of hail 1 inch diameter or larger and/or damaging thunderstorm winds are expected during a three to eight hour period. A Tornado Watch includes the large hail and damaging wind threats, as well as the possibility of multiple tornadoes. Typical watches cover about 25,000 square miles, or about half the size of Iowa.
A Severe Thunderstorm Watch or a Tornado Watch is issued by the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma. The local National Weather Service Office decides which counties will be in the watch and which ones will be left out.
Watches are exactly what the name implies: an area where meteorologists are watching for storm development. It might not be happening right now, but it is possible; you should stay close to a source of weather information.
Warnings are "action" statements; when a warning of any kind is issued, it means severe weather either is already or is expected to occur very soon! Take action to protect yourself!
What is a Severe Thunderstorm Warning?
In Alabama, a Severe Thunderstorm Warning is issued by the National Weather Service when a thunderstorm is capable of producing damaging wind gusts (58 miles per hour or greater) and/or one-inch diameter hail or larger (roughly the size of a quarter or bigger). Severe Thunderstorm Warnings cover only the parts of counties where severe weather is expected; that region is usually highlighted with a yellow polygon. Warnings may last for as little as 5 minutes or as long as an hour depending on how fast the storm is moving.
Severe thunderstorm safety is simple: stay indoors! More specifically, you should be near the center of your home. Damaging winds in a normal severe storm are not enough to destroy your home, but they can easily topple trees or blow out windows. If a tree falls on your home, most of the damage occurs on the outside walls and roof. Mobile homes can be crushed by falling trees, and severe thunderstorm winds can flip them over; it is best to leave mobile homes before the storm gets close.
What is a Tornado Warning?
A tornado warning is issued when a thunderstorm is capable of producing a tornado. The tornado has either been reported to the National Weather Service or indicated by doppler radar. A tornado warning includes the elements of a severe thunderstorm warning (wind and hail), but it also means a tornado is possible. Tornado warnings are issued the part of county (or parts of several counties) that will be affected by the tornado; that area is usually highlighted by a red polygon, and it can last a few minutes or as much as one hour depending on how fast the storm is moving.
ABC 33/40 has a long-standing commitment to our viewers that if any county in our television market is under a tornado warning, we will stay on the air until the danger is over.