What is the difference between a weather watch and a warning and why does it matter?

98.1 The Hawk logo
Get our free mobile app

Whenever extreme weather is forecasted, meteorologists tend to issue watches and warnings. If you've never really been sure of what the difference is, we've got an easy way for you to remember.

What Is a Weather Watch?

According to Weather Works, a WATCH means that conditions are perfect for dangerous weather. In other words, a WATCH means WATCH out for what the weather could do and be prepared for the chance that some crazy stuff might go down.

For events that come and go quickly like severe thunderstorms, tornadoes, or flash floods- a WATCH means that the odds are good for some pretty dangerous weather, but it’s the elements aren't happening yet.

For more extended events like hurricanes or winter storms, a WATCH means that the storm isn’t an immediate threat but could become one quickly and so you should prepare by stocking up on water, food, blankets and you should also know what to do if the WATCH turns into a WARNING.

What Is a Weather Warning?

On the other hand, Weather Works explains that a WARNING means that dangerous weather is happening right now, right where you are.

For severe thunderstorms, tornadoes, and flash floods, a WARNING means things are nasty and it's all going down right this second.

A winter storm WARNING means- don’t even think about leaving your house/business/school wherever because it’s not safe to go outside. If you’re traveling when a WARNING is issued, you need to not try to fight the storm, but instead, find a place to hang out until the worst of it is over.

How to Remember the Difference Between a Watch and a Warning

I always associate a watch with keeping an eye on things (you know, you watch something with your eyes). A warning has an "i" which can stand for "imminent" or "is" happening right now.

LOOK: The most expensive weather and climate disasters in recent decades

Stacker ranked the most expensive climate disasters by the billions since 1980 by the total cost of all damages, adjusted for inflation, based on 2021 data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The list starts with Hurricane Sally, which caused $7.3 billion in damages in 2020, and ends with a devastating 2005 hurricane that caused $170 billion in damage and killed at least 1,833 people. Keep reading to discover the 50 of the most expensive climate disasters in recent decades in the U.S.

Gallery Credit: KATELYN LEBOFF

LOOK: The most extreme temperatures in the history of every state

Stacker consulted 2021 data from the NOAA's State Climate Extremes Committee (SCEC) to illustrate the hottest and coldest temperatures ever recorded in each state. Each slide also reveals the all-time highest 24-hour precipitation record and all-time highest 24-hour snowfall.

Keep reading to find out individual state records in alphabetical order.

Gallery Credit: Anuradha Varanasi

More From 98.1 The Hawk