Understanding the Difference Between Severe Weather Warnings and Watches
When it comes to severe weather in Abilene, people often ask me what's the difference between a watch and a warning. If you don't know the difference, then I'm about to lay some knowledge down for you.
Now, I'm not a weather expert, but rather a weather enthusiast. I have been certified as a weather spotter for SkyWarn, and I am part of the Spotter Network, but an expert I am not. I'm just an average dude that really likes to track severe weather, especially when it comes to thunderstorms and tornados in our area.
While the peak severe weather season in Abilene is usually between March and October, severe weather can happen at any time. In order to help save lives, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) work together with the Storms Prediction Center (SPC) and National Weather Service (NWS) to issue these warnings and watches.
Watches are issued by NOAA's SPC, while the warnings are issued by the local offices of the National Weather Service. In the Abilene area, that would be the NWS in San Angelo.
But, what exactly is the difference between a Watch and a Warning?
Severe Weather Watch
A watch means that conditions are favorable for a severe thunderstorm, tornado, or flash flood. That doesn't mean that severe weather will happen for sure. It just means that there is a possibility and that you should monitor the situation in case a warning is issued.
Severe Weather Warning
A warning means that the event (thunderstorm, flood, tornado) is imminent and will threaten a particular area based on reports, radar, and other information received by the NWS. If a warning is issued, you should act accordingly, depending on the type of warning.
Hopefully, this will clear up any questions you may have when it comes to the difference between a watch, and a warning.