Watches and Warnings: Understanding Severe Weather Watches and Warnings: #COwx

It is Colorado Severe Weather Awareness Week.  The Colorado Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management is partnering with the National Weather Service Forecast Offices in Colorado to bring you daily briefs on preparing and understanding the severe weather in the state.  Today we focus on watches and warnings.  The NWS is providing a new blog each day.

The National Weather Service sees the potential for severe weather and a stream of weather information flows from our forecast offices to you.

Each National Weather Service forecast office has a web site, a Facebook page, and a Twitter feed where you can find weather stories. These are graphical looks at upcoming weather hazards. The Hazardous Weather Outlook is a text product and it is also available. It highlights weather hazards -sometimes seven days in advance.

The Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma also forecasts the chance for severe weather across the country several days in advance. These outlooks will tell you if there is a chance for severe weather and if you are in a slight risk, moderate risk, or high risk area for severe weather.


If severe weather becomes likely within six hours a watch will be issued to alert you of the higher chance for severe weather in or close to the watch area. If you are in or close to the watch area plan where you would go for shelter if severe weather was to occur. If high wind is a threat tying down or bringing loose objects indoors is a good idea. If large hail is a threat protecting your vehicle is a good idea.


Then forecasters at the local National Weather Service office will monitor satellite and radar data and talk with severe weather spotters. Forecasters will issue warnings and quickly send them out to alert you of the imminent severe weather threat. The warnings are sent out in many different ways in order to reach the most people possible.

A warning is an urgent message telling you that severe weather or flooding is imminent or is occurring. Warnings are usually issued for an area smaller than a county.

A Severe Thunderstorm Warning is issued for wind gusts of 58 mph or higher or for hail one inch in diameter or greater.

A Tornado Warning is issued when tornadoes are imminent or occurring.

A Flash Flood Warning is issued for rapidly developing life threatening flooding.

How to Receive Watch or Warning Updates

Before and during severe weather you can receive watches, warnings, and advisories on NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards. ( It is recommended that you buy a weather radio receiver with a built-in tone alarm which is activated by the National Weather Service when watches and warnings are issued. You can also find warnings on the internet or receive them from your local radio or television stations.

Do not be caught off guard. Know how to receive watch and warning information...and know what to do when severe weather threatens. Specific safety information will be available each day of this Colorado Severe Weather Awareness Week.

...on Sunday............Introduction
...on Monday……...Watches and Warnings
...on Tuesday……..Tornadoes and Tornado Safety
...on Wednesday....Flood and Flash Flood Safety
...on Thursday…....Downburst Wind and Hail
...on Friday………...Lightning and Lightning Safety
...on Saturday…......Severe Weather Awareness Week in Review