Friday, May 7, 2010

Outlooks, Watches and Warnings

It's Day #5 of Severe Weather Awareness Week and today, the National Weather Service would like you to fully understand the forecast-related "products" that you'll hear us share from time-to-time when we receive alerts.  They include the following:

The National Weather Service uses a three tier approach to alert the public for the potential for severe weather. This three tier approach consists of OUTLOOKS, WATCHES and WARNINGS.

Everyday, NWS forecasters in the Pacific Northwest assess the chance for severe weather. A hazardous weather outlook is issued to alert people when conditions are favorable for severe weather to develop within the next few days.

A Severe Weather Watch is issued by the National Weather Service when conditions are favorable for severe thunderstorms or tornadoes to develop. A watch is usually issued for large areas involving many counties. It heightens your awareness of the possibility of severe weather in the next several hours. If you are in the area covered by a watch, continue with your normal activities, but at the same time make a plan where you would go for shelter if severe weather were to strike suddenly. If high winds is a primary threat, tying down or bringing loose objects indoors is a good idea.

A Severe Weather Warning is an urgent message to tell you that severe weather is imminent or occurring . Warnings are usually for small areas, part of a county, or a county or two at a time. A severe thunderstorm or tornado warning is usually in effect for 30 minutes to one hour. Your immediate action is necessary if you are in the path of the storm.

In times of severe weather, you can get all these vital National Weather Service messages on NOAA All Hazards Weather Radio. Many weather radio receivers have a built in tone alarm, that is activated by the National Weather Service when watches and warnings are issued. you can also get weather information, based on national weather service products, from your local radio or television stations or from our web page at

Public information statements will be issued throughout the week to give safety information, and help you know how to respond when severe weather threatens.

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