What are the difference between Tornado Watches and Warnings?

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A tornado touches down near Moundville in Hale County, Ala., Wednesday, March 17, 2021, causing damage to homes and downing trees. A wave of storms is pounding the Deep South, leaving a trail of splintered trees and damaged buildings. And forecasters said still more severe weather was on the way Wednesday with the potential for massive tornadoes, downpours and hail the size of tennis balls. (Gary Cosby Jr.,/The Tuscaloosa News via AP)

According to the National Weather Service, Tornado Watches are issued for broad areas where conditions exist for the development of twisters, while Tornado Warnings are issued for highly localized areas where a tornado is imminent or has been detected on radar.

Watches, commonly issued a few hours before a storm could hit, are meant to alert the public of a developing threat for tornadoes and indicate the need to remain vigilant. Warnings, often issued minutes before a tornado hits, are urgent calls to seek shelter immediately.

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Knowing the difference between the two can prepare individuals for the necessary steps to take when considering the threat of severe weather.

Watches are issued by the NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center (SPC), and warnings are issued by local offices of the National Weather Service (NWS).

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