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      Severe Weather Watches and Warnings: Do you know the difference?

      Watches and Warnings issued by the National Weather Service. / NOAA

      Severe weather situations can pop up most any time of year here in Southwest Georgia and when they do it's best to be prepared.

      To help keep people safe in cases of severe weather like severe thunderstorm, tornadoes, or flash flooding the National Weather Service will (if possible) issue watches and warnings in advance of these events.

      Generally a watch is issued when the risk of a hazardous weather or flooding event has increased significantly, but its occurrence, location, and/or timing is still uncertain. It is intended to provide enough lead time so that those who need to set their plans in motion can do so.

      A warning is issued when a hazardous weather or flooding event is occurring, is imminent, or has a very high probability of occurring. A warning is used for conditions posing a threat to life or property.

      Our main concern with severe weather during April and May is with severe thunderstorms and tornadoes. So let's talk about the watches and warning for those events here in Southwest Georgia.

      A severe thunderstorm watch means that the potential exists for the development of thunderstorms which may produce large hail or damaging winds. A watch does not mean a severe thunderstorm is occurring but only that it has potential to occur.
      In our area that means the possibility of thunderstorms that could produce hail of at least 1 inch in diameter (quarter sized) and/ or wind gusts of at least 58 mph.

      If a storm will or is producing hail of at least 1 inch in diameter (quarter sized) and/ or wind gusts of at least 58 mph, a severe thunderstorm warning will be issued by the local National Weather Service office.

      A tornado watch, much like a severe thunderstorm watch, means that the potential exists for the development of thunderstorms. A tornado watch also indicates that storms may be capable of producing tornadoes.

      A tornado warning is issued by the local National Weather Service office when a tornado (or sometimes a funnel cloud) has been spotted or is indicated by radar. When a tornado warning is issued for your area you should seek appropriate shelter immediately.

      Both a severe thunderstorm watch and a tornado watch are issued by the Storm Prediction Center or SPC and not by the local National Weather Service office

      Understanding watches and warnings is just part of keeping your family safe. Having a way to get watches and warnings is imperative and a good way to do this is to buy and use a NOAA weather radio.

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