Tornado Threat: the Difference Between ‘Watches' and ‘Warnings'

"You need to move when you hear a tornado warning is happening in your area"

The recent spate of severe weather threats throughout the greater Philadelphia region has put a spotlight on the difference between a tornado "watch" and a tornado "warning."

The National Weather Service has issued both warnings and watches in the past week as tornadoes have threatened and even been confirmed in parts of Pennsylvania and elsewhere. Wednesday will see further tornado threats throughout the region.

A tornado watch is the less severe advisory, but still indicates that people should be prepared, according to the NWS. A watch typically covers a larger geographic area, like multiple counties or states, and means that a tornado is possible in or near these areas. Weather conditions during a tornado watch usually include thunderstorms.

A tornado warning is more severe and means that a tornado is happening or is imminent, NBC10 First Alert Meteorologist Brittney Shipp said. A warning means "imminent danger to life and property," according to the NWS.

"What you need to do is find shelter now. You have a few seconds. You need to move when you hear a tornado warning is happening in your area," Shipp said.

During a tornado, people should move to an interior room on the lowest floor of a "sturdy" building while trying to avoid windows, according to the NWS. Cars are not considered safe and those inside of one at the time of a tornado should try to drive to a shelter or ditch their car entirely and look for a low-lying area such as a ditch or a ravine.

To avoid injuries from flying debris, people should also cover their head and neck, Shipp said.

Contact Us