Some people often misunderstand the difference between a tornado watch and a tornado warning. Those two weather terms are often heard from various television news stations and radio stations throughout the eastern half of the United States. One term from the weather vocabulary is “tornado watch,” which represents only as a precaution in case a tornado forms. The other term is “tornado warning,” which is clearly a warning reminding residents to seek shelter because a tornado has been spotted by spotters or a law enforcement agency.

Tornado Watch

A tornado watch indicates there is a chance of any tornadoes for the area. The Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma issues such watches in advance of strong systems such as a cold front or in areas where severe weather is bound to take shape. On a standard weather map, a typical tornado watch looks like a rectangle covering approximately two hundred miles of land. Residents who are in the watch zone need to look out for any deteriorating weather patterns. The sun may be shining in the blue sky, but that can change. Cumulonimbus clouds can soon build, and the sky may turn cloudy in the matter of hours.

Residents need to be prepared and make sure they know what to do in case of any tornadoes forming nearby. They should know the safest places to go and how to take cover. In the meantime, residents can tune to their local TV news stations to keep in touch with meteorologists reporting any developing weather patterns. They can also tune to local radio stations to receive the latest weather updates from the announcers.

Tornado Warning

The tornado warning indicates that a tornado is likely nearby, and residents need to take shelter fast. On a Doppler radar map, a tornado warning covers a region of approximately 25 miles, representing the path of the tornado. The warning verifies that a circulation in the clouds has been detected by a National Weather Service radar system. Or, it can be a tornado itself, which is reported by trained storm spotters who watch the rotation in the clouds closely.

To maintain security from the tornado, residents need to immediately head to a nearest basement or storm cellar they know about, or go to the first floor of a home or building. If they choose to take cover in the home, they need to crouch to their knees and cover the back of the necks with their hands in a sturdy hallway. Another method is to crawl under a good, hard table and stay there until the tornado passes. If the residents are outdoors, they should lay flat on their stomachs in an open ditch and secure their necks with hands.

Just because the Storm Prediction Center issues tornado watches doesn’t mean tornadoes have already been spotted. Tornado watches are just reminders that there is a chance of severe weather containing tornadoes. Tornado warnings urgently notify people to go inside a sturdy basement or the first level of a building. To maintain maximum safety, residents should abide with the terms “tornado watch” and “tornado warning,” and be obedient to the tips provided by the media.