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Warnings, Watches, And Advisories

Updated: Wednesday, August 14 2013, 10:30 PM EDT

With all of the alerts the National Weather Service issues, it can be confusing to know what each alert means. All National Weather Service alerts fall into three major categories: warnings, watches, and advisories.

An example of flash flooding in Brown County on May 22, 2012. Flash Flood Warnings were issued by the National Weather Service prior to this flooding.

When a warning is issued for your area, it means hazardous weather is already occurring, is likely to occur, or will occur shortly. A warning may be issued when hazardous weather has been reported or has been detected by weather radar.

When a warning is issued, you should take immediate action to protect yourself and your property from hazardous weather. For example, if a Severe Thunderstorm Warning is issued in your community, you are in the path of a thunderstorm capable of producing damaging straight-line winds and/or large hail; seeking shelter inside and away from windows is the best way to stay safe until the warning is cancelled or expires.

A watch is issued when the risk of a hazardous weather event has increased significantly. It is often issued when organized hazardous weather is forecast for a specific area, usually covering several counties or more. When a watch is issued, you should be prepared for severe weather until the watch is cancelled or expires. For example, if a Flash Flood Watch is posted where you live, flash flooding may occur soon in your community or in a nearby community; you should avoid flooded roads and be prepared to seek higher ground quickly.

An example of how a Flash Flood Watch is shown on Local 12 News


The National Weather Service will issue an advisory if weather is forecast to cause an inconvenience but not a significant threat to life or property. An advisory is issued when inconvenient weather is occurring or will likely occur. For example, a Wind Advisory will be posted for an area where non-thunderstorm winds may down twigs and parts of branches but not down trees or cause structural damage.


Warnings are the highest priority National Weather Service alerts. Watches are issued to give you and your family notice where hazardous weather may be occurring and/or in the near future. Advisories are issued to highlight areas where weather may cause an inconvenience but is unlikely be life-threatening or dangerous.

Warnings, Watches, And Advisories


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