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Explanation of National Weather Service Terms
- Warning: Hazardous weather or hydrologic 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.
- Watch: The risk of a hazardous weather or hydrologic 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.
- Advisory: Special weather conditions that are less serious than a warning. Events that may cause significant inconvenience, and if caution is not exercised, it could lead to situations that may threaten life and/or property.
- Flood Warning: Flooding is occuring along larger streams in which there is a serious threat to life or property. A flood warning will usually contain river stage (level) forecasts.
- Flood Watch: Current and developing hydrometeorological conditions are such that there is a threat of flooding, but the occurrence is neither certain nor imminent.
- Flash Flood Warning: Flash flooding is in progress, imminent, or highly likely.
- Flash Flood Watch: Current or developing hydrologic conditions are favorable for flash flooding in and close to the watch area, but the occurrence is neither certain or imminent.
- Severe Thunderstorm: A thunderstorm that produces a tornado, winds of at least 58 mph (50 knots), and/or hail at least 1" in diameter. Structural wind damage may imply the occurrence of a severe thunderstorm. A thunderstorm wind equal to or greater than 40 mph (35 knots) and/or hail of at least 1" is defined as approaching severe.
- Severe Thunderstorm Warning: Either a severe thunderstorm is indicated by the WSR-88D radar or a spotter reports a thunderstorm producing hail one inch or larger in diameter and/or winds equal or exceed 58 miles an hour. Severe thunderstorms can produce tornadoes with little or no advance warning. Lightning frequency is not a criteria for issuing a severe thunderstorm warning. They are usually issued for a duration of one hour. They can be issued without a Severe Thunderstorm Watch being already in effect.
- Severe Thunderstorm Watch: Conditions are favorable for the development of severe thunderstorms in and close to the watch area. The size of the watch can vary depending on the weather situation. They are usually issued for a duration of 4 to 8 hours. They are normally issued well in advance of the actual occurrence of severe weather. During the watch, people should review severe thunderstorm safety rules and be prepared to move a place of safety if threatening weather approaches.
- Tornado: A violently rotating column of air, usually pendant to a cumulonimbus, with circulation reaching the ground. It nearly always starts as a funnel cloud and may be accompanied by a loud roaring noise.
- Tornado Warning: A tornado is indicated by radar or sighted by spotters/law enforcement; therefore, people in the affected area should seek safe shelter immediately. They can be issued without a Tornado Watch being already in effect. They are usually issued for a duration of around 30 minutes, and are usually issued by polygon.
- Tornado Watch: Conditions are favorable for the development of tornadoes in and close to the watch area. They are usually issued for a duration of 4 to 8 hours. They normally are issued well in advance of the actual occurrence of severe weather. During the watch, people should review tornado safety rules and be prepared to move a place of safety if threatening weather approaches.
- Winter Storm Warning: A winter storm is producing or is forecast to produce heavy snow or significant ice accumulations. The criteria for this warning can vary from place to place.
- Winter Storm Watch: There is a potential for heavy snow or significant ice accumulations, usually at least 24 to 36 hours in advance. The criteria for this watch can vary from place to place.
- Winter Weather Advisory: A low pressure system produces a combination of winter weather (snow, freezing rain, sleet, etc.) that present a hazard, but does not meet warning criteria.
- High Wind Warning: Sustained winds over 40 mph and/or gusts over 58 mph.
- Wind Advisory: Sustained winds 25 to 39 mph and/or gusts to 45 mph.
- Wind Chill Warning: Generally, expect wind chills below -20 ~ POTENTIALLY DEADLY conditions.
- Wind Chill Advisory: Generally, expect wind chills below -10 ~ Dangerous conditions.
- Excessive Heat Warning: Sustained heat index over 105 degrees for at least 3 consecutive hours.
- Heat Advisory: Sustained heat index of at least 100 degrees for at least 2 consecutive hours.