Weather Watches,Warnings and Advisories….What’s the Difference?

Dayna @ Nor Cal Survival

With all the wacky weather happening around the country, we keep hearing terms like “storm watch” and “winter storm warning” In an attempt to help our fans prepare for these potential hazards, I thought it my be a good idea to clarify the difference between watches and warnings.


Advisories are given when weather situations of “inconvenience” that do not carry the danger of warning or watch, but could lead to hazardous situations. Some examples include snow advisories stating possible slick streets, or fog advisories for patchy fog condition causing temporary restrictions to visibility.


A watch is a forecast issued well in advance of an impending weather hazard such as a winter storm, tornado, flooding etc.  A watch gives people an adequate amount of time to prepare for a possible disaster, power outage etc.

Some common “watch” alerts are:

1) Winter Storm Watch: Hazardous winter weather conditions including heavy snow,   sleet, or ice accumulation from freezing rain. When the storm becomes imminent, or has a high probability of occurring, the watch will be upgraded to a “WARNING”.

2) Tornado Watch: Conditions are favorable for the development of severe thunderstorms and tornadoes in and close to the watch area. These watches are issued for large areas by the Storm Prediction Center in and are usually valid for five to eight hours.

3) Hurricane Watch: When sustained winds of 74 mph or higher are possible within the specified area in association with a tropical, subtropical, or post-tropical cyclone. Because hurricane preparedness activities become difficult once winds reach tropical storm force, the hurricane watch is issued 48 hours in advance of the anticipated onset of tropical storm force winds.


A warning is a forecast issued when severe weather has developed, is happening, has been detected and is in your area. A warning means, brace yourself and hope you prepared!

Some commonly issued “warnings” are:

1) Winter Storm Warning: Hazardous winter weather conditions that pose a threat to life and/or property are occurring, imminent, or highly likely. The generic term, winter storm warning, is used for a combination of two or more of the following winter weather events; heavy snow, freezing rain, sleet, and strong winds.

2) Wind Chill Warning: Extreme wind chills that are life threatening are imminent or occurring, criteria vary significantly over different county warning areas

3) Tornado Warning: A tornado has been sighted by spotters or indicated on radar and is occurring or imminent in the warning area.

So there you have it, the basic differences between watches, warnings and advisories. Hope this helps with your ability to prepare a little better considering all the crazy weather we’ve been having lately. Stay safe and alert. To keep track of the latest storms see 

Thanks, Dayna

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