Saturday, April 1, 2023 2:22 AM

A Guide to Tornado Alerts: Watch, Warning, and Emergency Explained

Matthew Holliday

A tornado watch, tornado warning, and tornado emergency are different levels of alerts issued by weather authorities when tornadoes are possible, imminent, or causing severe damage. Here are definitions and analogies to help you better understand each term:

Tornado Watch:

Definition: A tornado watch means that conditions are favorable for the formation of tornadoes in a specific area. It is a precautionary alert to make people aware of the potential for tornadoes and encourages them to stay informed about the weather situation.

Analogy: A tornado watch is like a baker gathering all the ingredients needed to bake a cake. The baker has not yet started baking, but they have everything ready, so it's possible that a cake will be made. Similarly, a tornado watch signifies that conditions are right for a tornado to form, but one has not yet developed.

Tornado Warning:

Definition: A tornado warning is issued when a tornado has been spotted or detected by radar in the vicinity. This alert means that a tornado is imminent, and people should take immediate action to protect themselves and seek shelter.

Analogy: A tornado warning is like the baker putting the cake in the oven. The process has started, and it's only a matter of time before the cake is ready. In the same way, a tornado warning indicates that a tornado is forming or has been spotted, and people must take action to stay safe.

Tornado Emergency:

Definition: A tornado emergency is an exceptionally rare and severe alert issued when a large, destructive tornado is causing significant damage, and there is a high potential for loss of life. This alert is used for the most dangerous and life-threatening tornado situations.

Analogy: A tornado emergency is like the cake catching fire in the oven, and the fire is rapidly spreading. The situation has escalated to a dangerous level, and immediate action is necessary to prevent further damage or harm. Similarly, a tornado emergency indicates an extremely dangerous tornado causing significant damage, and people must take immediate life-saving actions.