What is the difference between a tornado warning and watch?

NATURAL disasters are recurring weather events that cause great damage and even the possibility of loss of life.

When it comes to being prepared for a tornado, it's good to know what to look out for.

What is a tornado?

Tornadoes are narrow funnels of wind that form from a thunderstorm and touch the ground.

They are known to be incredibly violent rotating columns of air and can be especially dangerous due to the lack of visibility of wind.

When a condensation funnel made up of water droplets, dust and debris is formed, a tornado becomes visible to the human eye.

Tornadoes occur in most areas of the world, with around 1200 in the US each year.

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Although they can occur at any time of the year, tornado season ranges from May to June, with the most occurring during the springtime.

What is a tornado watch?

A tornado watch is typically issued hours in advance of an actual tornado.

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It means that weather conditions are favorable for a tornado to form, but one hasn't been spotted yet.

The NOAA Storm Prediction Center issues a tornado watch during times when the weather conditions show a possibility of severe weather.

A tornado watch can cover part of a state or several states, depending on the severity of the weather.

One should be prepared to act while a watch is in progress, but it doesn't always mean severe weather is coming.

What is a tornado warning?

A tornado warning is issued by local NOAA National Weather Service Forecast Office meteorologists in an area where a tornado has been spotted.

Tornado warnings cover smaller areas, as they are only implemented in the actual case of severe weather.

A tornado warning indicates serious danger for those who are in the path of the said tornado.

When one is made aware of a tornado warning, they should seek shelter immediately.

What is a tornado alert?

According to the National Weather Service tornado sirens are usually sounded when something considered to be "life-threatening" is happening.

The sirens are typically an outdoor sound that is used to alert citizens that something dangerous is approaching.

Despite varying from state to state, the most common tones produced by tornado sirens in the United States are "alert" (steady) and "attack" (wail).

The alert sirens are typically activated by city or county officials, usually police or fire department or emergency management personnel. 

How do you stay safe during a tornado?

During a tornado, one should seek safe space in a shelter.

If a storm shelter is unavailable, people are advised to find a spot in their homes away from windows, typically the basement or a bathroom.

An emergency kit is recommended by AccuWeather. They suggest its contents should include non-perishable food, water, batteries, a flashlight, a battery-powered radio, and a first aid kit.

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Keep an eye out for green clouds or the sound of a freight train, as that is what a tornado is described as sounding like.

Avoid corners, doors, and outside areas during a tornado.

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